Practical Prosecco

Observations March 28, 2011 9:05 pm

While enjoying a glass of prosecco at brunch on Sunday, I unabashedly commented on how ‘pretty‘ the prosecco looked, what with all the bubbles in my glass. My more practical friend then burst my bubble (sorry, just couldn’t resist) and informed me that my ‘pretty‘ bubbles were probably engineered by the stemware designers.

My pretty prosecco? Engineered to please me?

And because I’m a huge research nerd, I just had to look this up to see if it was really true- and it turns out that yes, the pretty, perfect vertical line of bubbles in my prosecco- while still pretty- are in fact an engineered design element:

– Naturally, when you pour the carbonated prosecco into a glass, C02 is released and bubbles will form on the side of a glass when the C02 finds any kind of irregularity in the glass to grab onto- a scratch, piece of dust, etc:

The irregularity, known as a nucleation point, prompts carbon dioxide molecules to come out of [the prosecco] and create a bubble. The bubble expands as more molecules diffuse into it from the [prosecco], which has a much higher concentration of carbon dioxide. Once the bubble is big enough to have acquired sufficient buoyancy, it detaches from the nucleation point and rises to the surface. Alone again, the irregularity grabs more carbon dioxide molecules from the [prosecco] and another bubble is formed, and another, and so on until you have a steady stream of bubbles rising vertically through your drink.’ (ScienceInSchool)

– Ok, whew, so the bubbles are a naturally occurring phenomenon. Prosecco just can’t help that it’s pretty! But as I kept researching, I discovered that while these irregularities in the glass provide the initial burst of bubbles, these irregularities aren’t large enough to sustain the bubbles– and if you had a perfect glass to start with, you wouldn’t have any bubbles at all!

– So what’s a manufacturer to do to please the pretty loving prosecco drinker? Design a glass with large enough ‘irregularities’ to provide a constant stream of bubbles:

In order to ensure an aesthetic and controlled bubbling behaviour during champagne tasting, specialized glassmakers use to engrave the bottom of glasses by means of impact laser techniques. This industrial process creates artificial nucleation sites which are much more vigorous in terms of bubbling behaviour compared to the natural and random effervescence from tiny particles stuck the glass wall. (Journal of Visualization, Artifical Bubble Nucleation in Engraved Champagne Glasses)

Engineered pretty! My bubble has been burst. But the real point to my prosecco story?

Details matter. Design Matters. No matter what we do, we all have the opportunity to be in the ‘creative’ industry.

Even as a researcher, I have the opportunity to present my numbers/charts/stats in an aesthetically pleasing manner- and in making sure that my research is ‘pretty,’ I’m also giving a non-number-loving person the best possible chance to respond to and understand the numbers.  Of course, I could just slap numbers on a page, too–at the end of the day a number will always be a number–but since numbers aren’t really most people’s favorite thing, what slide are they more likely to be drawn to?  People are drawn to the ‘pretty,’ no matter how practical the pretty actually turns out to be. We all have the choice to make our work ‘pretty’ and practical or just practical- but in choosing your presentation, I think it’s best to always keep the end user in mind- prosecco would still be prosecco without the bubbles, my numbers would still be numbers without a pretty chart, but what’s going to please the end user the most- Bubbles or something flat? How can you, in your job, better guarantee that your work gets chosen over a competitor? All else equal, I think it’s good design that creates the opportunity for a winning edge- so make your work pretty and practical!


A very inspiring presentation by Jack Dorsey on the importance of design:



  • Skye Earls

    I love sparkling alcoholic beverages of all sorts… why wouldn’t you always want to have a party in your glass?!

    • Anonymous

      Me too! We even have a sign hanging in our apt: ‘Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.’ Miss you!

      • Skye Earls

        I just saw your reply–but I’m putting your quotation on my quote board on the wall of my cube RIGHT NOW!!! Miss you girl–hope the new gig is GREAT!

  • Skye Earls

    I love sparkling alcoholic beverages of all sorts… why wouldn’t you always want to have a party in your glass?!