Follow-Up File: Kraftwerk has designs on growth

Name: Thomas Reiss

Job: Owner

Business: Kraftwerk Design

What he said then:

Kraftwerk Design was featured in The Tribune in mid-2006, when a print ad it created for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance garnered national attention.

U.S. Ad Review deemed the print ad one of the “Best in American Advertising.” It was one of 16 alcohol ads noted in the quarterly publication.

“The goal was to make people stop and say, ‘Wow, what is this all about?’ ” said owner Thomas Reiss of the ad’s stark wine bottle silhouette with reversed-out type. “There were a lot of people who were like, ‘Are you crazy?’ ”

Reiss’ one-man shop was first contracted by the association in 1999. Partly through its referrals and members, Kraftwerk developed a specialty in wine-related graphic design.

In 2008, it was selected by the city of Paso Robles for its “Authentic California” rebranding campaign.

What he says now:

Kraftwerk’s specialty in wine promotions has also won the company jobs in related fields, such as lodging, weddings and other types of agriculture.

When author Rex Pickett’s “Sideways” sequel appears on shelves Nov. 23, “Vertical” will bear a book cover designed by the San Luis Obispo firm.

“My personal philosophy: I’m for slow-growing companies,” Reiss said. “We don’t have sales people; we don’t do massive ads. We let clients find us.”

So far, that approach has steadily garnered gigs from larger corporate wineries elsewhere in California and in Australia.

Nearly 70 percent of the company’s design work is directly related to wine. In the past eight years, Kraftwerk helped launch 112 new labels.

As a full-service firm, it creates everything from logos and letterhead to wine club applications and e-commerce sites.

“Doing more high-profile projects helps,” Reiss said. “We’re not in Napa or San Francisco, so we’re still a little bit undiscovered.”

Blogs and trade publications also help. When wine writer Steve Heimoff mentioned Reiss in his blog last week, Kraftwerk saw a spike in hits to its website.

With seven employees, the shop on Fiero Lane has felt wineries cutting back or delaying redesigns of marketing materials.

But many high-end clients have launched new labels at a lower price point. With consumers shifting to cheaper wines, wineries are releasing labels at $8 to $10. To protect more expensive brands, wineries prefer to sell them under a different name.

“Overall, it balanced it out,” Reiss said. “We’ve seen really steady growth the past two to three years.”

- Raven J. Railey