ROTOCON recognises dynamic young talent

Blending youthful creativity with skills development akin to a well crafted Bordeaux, the 2024 ROTOCON Student Wine Label Design competition overflowed with visually striking entries from Tshwane University of Technology’s third- and fourth-year students.

As the wine sector flourishes, ROTOCON, a leading print technology supplier, eagerly anticipates celebrating and honouring the industry’s brightest minds and most exciting talent. Now in its fifth year, the WineLand & ROTOCON 30 Under 30 Awards aim to shine a spotlight on the rising stars of the wine industry: the bold thinkers, game-changers, and out-of-the-box minds. From soil scientists and sommeliers to harvest assistants and winemakers, they’re the driving force behind South Africa’s finest wines.

For the fourth consecutive year, ROTOCON reaffirms its commitment to youth development by sponsoring the 2024 edition of the awards, which will be held this month in Paarl. CEO Michael Aengenvoort emphasises the importance of nurturing young talent, stating, “An event like this helps identify the future leaders of tomorrow, shaping the destiny of our country.”

But behind every wine lies an exquisitely crafted label, meticulously designed and printed, blending artistry, technology and regulatory compliance. Enter the ROTOCON Student Wine Label Design competition.

Two years ago, Michael contemplated how ROTOCON could enhance its involvement in the 30 Under 30 Awards. He suggested infusing wine label design into the initiative to recognise emerging young designers. This sparked the inspiration for a Student Wine Label Design competition. Banie Stafford, owner of B.Creative Marketing, embraced this concept wholeheartedly, seized the opportunity, and ran with it. “The goal was to expand the competition’s reach beyond the confines of the Western Cape, reaching out to Gauteng where students have little exposure to the wine community,” Banie says. This strategic move facilitated a fresh perspective on wine label design concepts, opening doors for innovative ideas and creative exploration.

As the competition entered its second iteration this year, the quality and calibre of submissions surpassed Banie’s wildest expectations. Working with TUT’s Department of Visual Communication, the competition attracted many astounding entries from the vibrant third- and fourth-year Integrated Communication Design (ICD) students. This influx of creativity and ingenuity underscored the potential of the competition to serve as a platform for nurturing emerging talent and fostering innovation within the design community.

According to Schalk van Staden, an ICD lecturer at TUT, the competition’s standards align with international benchmarks, offering students unparalleled real-world exposure. “We strive to create industry-ready individuals with the necessary skills and development,” he explains. “The students recognise that this competition isn’t merely about creating visual displays; it’s a potential launchpad for their careers.”

He emphasises that the exposure, networking and professional growth garnered from this experience are invaluable. “It marks a significant step towards their professional design journeys.”

Raising the bar

The success of this year’s competition can be attributed to the hands-on approach taken by project leader Banie Stafford alongside TUT’s department heads and lecturers. Schalk believes their increased involvement and rigorous demands in adjudicating, briefing, and preparing students have raised the bar significantly, elevating the competition to new heights of excellence. This collaborative effort has led to the full integration of the competition into the student and department curriculum, emphasising its importance as a cornerstone of experiential learning and professional development.

As a packaging and labelling professional, Banie gave students a deeper insight into the industry’s intricacies. Through field trips and mentorship sessions, students gained valuable exposure to the practical aspects of label production and design execution, enhancing their understanding of printability and production constraints. Furthermore, students were tasked with presenting comprehensive design pitches to the judging panel, honing their presentation skills and articulating the design process behind their creations.

The rigorous selection process, which narrowed 49 student entries to a final cohort of 9, underscored the competition’s commitment to excellence and transparency. The top 9 finalists underwent a final design pitch session, where they presented their design research, concepts, and final design executions to the esteemed judging panel, which comprised industry experts and academic luminaries. This transparent and professional approach not only provided students with invaluable feedback but also served as a testament to the rigorous standards upheld by the competition.

Michael Aengenvoort, ROTOCON group CEO; Siyamdumisa Mbele; Prof Nalini Moodley, TUT Executive Dean Faculty of Arts & Design; Zenzele Nkambule; and Banie Stafford of B Creative

Reflecting on the competition’s transformative impact, Banie emphasises the importance of continuous improvement and innovation. “The process this year was remarkably effective, with its value evident from the initial revision presentation to the final ones,” Banie adds. “It was inspiring to see how students wholeheartedly embraced the feedback and revisions, implementing changes and improvements that ultimately enhanced their design skills.”

Banie highlights ROTOCON’s continuous commitment to enhancing the competition and elevating it to new heights. “Our aim is not just to organise a run-of-the-mill, nice to-have competition,” he says. We’ll continue to step it up and provide students with a platform for recognition and growth,” he asserts. Banie found it gratifying to witness the students’ earnest dedication to the competition. “The competition among students was intense,” he remarks.

Banie and Schalk concur on the competition’s mutual goal: to nurture students’ growth, enrich their knowledge and skill set, and enhance their design abilities. Banie emphasises ROTOCON’s steadfast commitment to empowering South Africa’s youth, fuelled by a profound love for the country.

With the competition gaining severe momentum, SA Litho Label Printers, a longstanding customer of ROTOCON who shares their passion and values, reached out to Michael earlier this year to express their support and offer to print the winning labels.

Victor claims the spoils

Following rigorous judging, Zenele Nkambule, an advanced ICD diploma student, emerged as the victor. Awarded R30 000, along with a round-trip flight and accommodation to the 30 Under 30 Awards luncheon in Paarl, his winning design ‘Route 62’ captivated the judges with its ingenious simplicity.

Zenzele’s winning design pays homage to the scenic beauty of Stellenbosch, capturing the essence of its lush garden town. “The inspiration behind my design was straightforward,” Zenele comments modestly. “I started with landscape imagery and infused it with elements from the rich cultural Ndebele heritage, giving it a modern twist.”

He believes the competition is a vital initiative to keep students engaged and inspired. “The recognition garnered is remarkable and paves the way for career opportunities,” Zenzele expresses.

In a surprise twist, Syamdumisa Mbele, a third-year ICD student, secured the runner-up position with his design ‘Soet Uitnemendheid’ (Sweet Excellence), bagging R15 000 and an all-expenses-paid trip to the 30 Under 30 Awards in the Cape Winelands. Syamdumisa’s design featured the Cape Sugarbird, chosen for its native presence in the Western Cape and affinity for nectar, aligning perfectly with the wine label’s essence. According to Syamdumisa, the bird’s waistcoat was inspired by the formal attire of ROTOCON’s company directors. “I incorporated the waistcoat to convey refinement, sophistication, and a sense of excellence.”

Consulting with industry experts like Banie proved invaluable, even if students had to endure multiple revisions. While there were moments of frustration, the result spoke volumes about the dedication and perseverance of the students involved. “Honestly, there were times where I was peeved with Banie for the multiple revisions,” Siyamdumisa admits with a smile. “But in the end, it was worth it.”

What distinguishes this competition is the distinct challenge encountered by the students, most of whom originate from the Gauteng province and possess limited familiarity with the nuances of the Cape wine region. Despite this, their designs flawlessly captured the essence of the brief. Was it mere luck? Zenzele suggests otherwise. “Whether it’s within your field or not, design is universal. With proper guidance, market and concept research and briefing, you can apply proper design principles to any domain,” he asserts.

As South Africa celebrates Youth Day on 16 June, ROTOCON reaffirms its dedication to empowering the next generation of leaders and change-makers. “Through mentorship, skills development and hands-on experience, we provide young professionals with the tools and opportunities they need to thrive in the ever-evolving industry landscapes that is wine and design. Through these initiatives, we reflect a dedication to excellence and a deep seated belief in the transformative power of youth,” Michael concludes.

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