Louise Leong with Banana Slug Roussane and her new original design. Photo by Christina Waters.

Signature Slug   Illustrator, arts student and 2012 Irwin Scholar Louise Leong finds inspiration in her obsession with product design, branding and vintage cartoons. A senior majoring in art at UCSC, Leong recently submitted the design chosen to grace a custom-bottled roussanne white wine made by Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyards. A savvy promotion for the Arts Division at UCSC—the sales of which will benefit arts student scholarships—the ingenious label design pleased both winemaker and Leong herself.

After a tasting with the winemaker, Leong started forming some of the key elements of her ultimate wine label. “Noting the flavors of the wine helped—quince, pears, as well as the name of the vineyard, Beeswax.” Visual elements began to pop up. Of course the UCSC banana slug mascot was always in the back of her mind as she sketched out mock-ups. “And it helped to see Randall roll up to the tasting in his red Citröen,” she chuckled.

Leong, whose family came from Macao to New York, was born in Queens but raised in the Bay Area. She has been creating vivid and edgy illustrations for City On A Hill newspaper for the past two years and became the paper's Illustration Editor last spring.

Here's how she approached the assignment. “I started making little symbols for each element—the flavors, the vineyard, UCSC, Randall's car—although I admit I was struggling with how to make a banana slug elegant, ” she laughs. A self-avowed branding maniac, Leong loves ephemera—”old labels, packaging, Indian matchboxes, classic cartoons.” In other words, vivid and distinctive images that can be spun, tweaked, reverse engineered and duplicated. “I fooled around with the image of a pear with little legs for a while. Then we decided to put the slug on the back, and the pear, bees, the flying cigare logo and some pale green wine bottles on the front.” The intriguing wine—indeed this rich, bold white wine is loaded with pome fruit tones of pear and quince—has found its distinctive graphic image, thanks to the fast-thinking UCSC visualist.

But it doesn't stop there. After finalizing the label for Banana Slug Roussane, another design opportunity arose. “And now I'm in negotiations with a European client working with Randall Grahm's wines,” Leong reveals. “They told Randall they needed artwork fast,” she grins. “And they liked the label I did for him.”

You can admire Leong's colorful label and purchase the custom-made 2010 Banana Slug Roussanne from Bonny Doon Vineyard at the winery's tasting room ($16) or www.bonnydoonvineyard.com. Definitely the gift and/or souvenir idea of the year, and proceeds support Arts Student Scholarships.