The recent Seattle’s Best re-branding uproar has encouraged me to begin a series of posts I’ve had brewing for a while now. I plan to look at the leading coffee roasters and discuss their brand, packaging, and why I think they are or are not successful.
Coffee is a huge commodity, and for many people, buying coffee is as overwhelming as picking out a bottle of wine. When a customer can’t distinguish the subtleties in taste, they are left to rely on their remaining senses to help make decisions.
The way a brand of coffee represents itself in a cafe or on the supermarket shelf will determine how its perceived before you even have a chance to taste it. In the coming weeks I’ll discuss a variety of ways different coffee companies have positioned themselves to stand out in such a saturated market.
Float is a student project of Brazillian designer, Eric Pautz. It’s a fun take on the traditional pump pot used to store coffee. The problem with average pump pots, is that after pouring a couple cups, empty space forms above the coffee allowing heat to disperse. Eric’s design solves this problem by placing a silicone disc around the straw that floats on top of the coffee, preventing space from forming between the coffee as it decreases in the pot. Simple, beautiful, and super cute redesign of a traditionally boring coffee accessory.
Yesterday morning, Seattle’s Best Coffee unveiled a new identity(designed by Seattle-based agency Creature) and announced their ambitious plans to expand further into fast-food chains throughout the US—including Subway, Burger King, and AMC Theaters. The company was founded in 1970, but was bought by Starbuck’s in 2003—and for the most part, left to its own devices. However, early last year Starbuck’s decided to better utilize the brand and expand into new markets. Their new plan is to have Seattle’s Best Coffee in 30,000 locations by this fall. With so much visibility in order, a re-brand was imminent.
I’ve only seen the new logo in the context above, so I’m curious to see how the system will expand. My first impression is positive and I like the new direction. It’s simple and it makes me smile. The modern aesthetic is a drastic, but appreciated departure from the old characterless branding. The previous design blended into the grocery store shelves, right alongside Red Diamond, Community Coffee, and Folger’s. This will definitely help differentiate them as well as attract a new generation of customers.
As for the coffee itself, it’s most likely on par with Starbucks. Regardless, it will be a great improvement for places like Subway and the movie theater.
Last December we wrote about the Beta Cup challenge (still trying to raise money at that point), but since then, Starbucks has stepped in and offered to sponsor the competition. According to Core77, the contests media sponsor, there have been over 152 entries to rethink the current system for coffee to-go. You can view and rate the entries so var on Jovoto. There are a lot of great ideas floating around and it will great to see how quickly the winning solution can be implemented. Good luck to all the participants.
Bodum’s design has been moving in this direction over the last year or so, but most of their new products have been too bubbly for my taste. However, their recently unveiled Ettore Kettle is magnificent looking. According to Core77 it was designed in 1986 (during the Memphis period), but technical limits kept it from being produced until now.
Jørgen Bodum—the co-owner of Bodum and son of company founder Peter Bodum—worked with Sottsass Associates on the design, and shows it off for us below, pointing out a few distinctly Memphis moments, and the manufacturing problem that kept this off the shelves until now.
I love Intelligentsia (call me a fanboy), but they really roast and brew damn good coffee. Also, their brand is a designer’s dream. I’ve recently been doing some research in the world of skateboard design, so when I saw this posted by @coffeeactivist, I got really excited. I googled around, but came up with no other information. If anyone knows where this came from and if they are available somewhere, please let me know!
While I recently posted about the beauty of a reusable lid for your ceramic mug, I was coincidentally sent this editorial, writen by reknown design writer Steven Heller, regarding his love for the Solo plastic lid.
Like Pavlov’s compliant canine, I salivate whenever I see someone walking down the street holding a paper coffee cup topped with a Solo Traveler lid. The various other varieties of plastic covers, including some that look like the Starship Enterprise, don’t move me at all. And Styrofoam cups are a total turn-off, but paper cups crowned with that raised, pierced rim make me want to bark at the moon — I mean, savor a hot beverage… -Times Magazine
While I admire Heller’s passion—I too prefer the simple Solo lid to the complex mechanisms in the fancier ones, which never seem to work correctly—I believe his article’s focus is naive and irresponsible. To praise the design of something that is meant to have a lifespan of less than an hour—only to sit for billions of years in a pile someplace, or float around aimlessly in The Great Pacific Garbage Patch—is wreckless abuse of his authority as a design critic. While the Mug Hug isn’t the most beautiful solution(though it’s clearly inspired by the Solo lid), functionally it’s far superior. It reduces mass amounts of unnecessary waste, which is a far more pressing problem designers should be focused on solving, not how well a lid, metaphorically, resembles suckling from our mother’s tit.
Caribou Coffee, the second largest coffee chain in the USA, just updated their brand. While I think their coffee is just as bad as Starbucks, at least their refreshing identity will make you think otherwise until you taste it. This is a huge upgrade from their old branding which tried too hard to feel “rustic,” but I hope they use the hand drawn elements sparingly. It can become too much, too quick. I also find the coffee bean/caribou body to be a little forced, however cute. See more over at Colle + McVoy—the Minneapolis agency who worked on the re-design.
From the Press Release:
When approaching the logo redesign, we didn’t want to lose the important equities of the previous logo, so the new logo still includes a leaping caribou, a shield and the words “Caribou Coffee.” What has changed, however, is the look: from a Northern lodge theme to a fresh variation of the same elements, now rooted in natural textures and fluid graphics.
“Because coffee is the heart and soul of our company, the body of the caribou is formed out of a coffee bean. In addition, the caribou’s antlers now form the shape of the letter ‘C’.” Another significant change in the logo is the direction of the caribou’s leap. While the Caribou in the previous logo was leaping left, the caribou now leaps right, signifying the direction the company is heading — into the future.
“The shield element has been updated to resemble the shape of traditional national park signage. This is a nod to our founders’ hike in Alaska’s Denali National Park, where they were inspired to start the company,” said Alfredo Martel, senior vice president of marketing for Caribou Coffee.