When Caffeine and Creativity Collide
As a designer, I’m a stereotype.
Is it because I look at everything around me with a discerning, creative eye? Because as I age, the colour in my wardrobe has quickly faded into a monochromatic collection of black, slate, charcoal and ebony? Or that my beard has been cemented as part of my identity?
I mean, those are all valid, factual reasons as to why I can be seen as a stereotype. The reason I say I’m a designer stereotype is because my life is fuelled by caffeine. It just makes everything better.
Coffee has become an integral part of my day to day. When I wake up in the morning. Coffee. When I’m not feeling particularly motivated to get my ass into a class at Shred Shop. Coffee. When I have a ton of work to get through... coffee.
My adoration of all things caffeine (except energy drinks, those can die) started when I was a teen, not knowing at the time that it would blossom into the borderline addiction I currently manage on a daily basis. Yay adulthood.
At this point in my life, caffeine has become synonymous with productivity… something I must tap into every damn day if I am going to keep the metaphoric ball that is GIOGRAFIK rolling into the future (and beyond).
So when I was approached earlier this year to help develop a brand identity for a new Canadian-based retailer that sells primo espresso machines, I jumped at the opportunity to partner with them.
For once, my work would focus on caffeine instead of caffeine helping me focus on my work.
Elvira DiGesu-Iarusso and her husband Luciano have been in the espresso game for over 30 years. They’ve established themselves just south of the border with Espresso Machine Experts, a Michigan-based operation that sells luxury / high-end espresso machines and the products that come along with them. Their goal was to tap into the Canadian market with a fresh approach to their business.
They reached out to me with the intention of developing a current, stylized brand that would attract a younger demographic. Think professional millennial. Possibly self-employed or forging a strong career path for themselves with a penchant for hosting dinner parties at home. They would, of course, be a fan of fine espresso.
I felt like Elvira was describing me to myself when she talked about who we were going to target. I was already excited about the project.
For me, the challenge with this project would be to create a brand identity that was strong, and could stand on its own within the industry it would eventually find itself in once launched. There are thousands of coffee or coffee-related brands out there. Each one with its own unique flair, each one with a specific message.
What I typically find is that many of them are really pushing the boundaries of branding and design - which I am obsessed with - with a lot of them missing the mark when it comes to being instantly recognizable as a business that deals with coffee. Every colour, theme and style has been done over and over again.
You look at some of the packaging and you’re more likely to think it’s candy or medicine than coffee. You tend to see this a lot with craft beer brands as well.
My intention was to take the traditional approach to design for a business that deals with espresso and finesse it to stand out in today’s saturated, highly caffeinated market. Working with Elvira, I was able to develop a concept for the brand and hit the ground running.
The ask was very straightforward : to design and brand the business with the bare essentials that any company in 2019 would need in order to operate. Being e-commerce veterans, Elvira and Luciano had the website covered.
First, the clients and I are all Italian. Having this common thread, along with our mutual love of a good espresso / coffee, was something that was integral to Espresso Canada’s story. Or at least, it was for me. Blending Italian culture with a pride of being Canadian is something that was easy for me to think about and execute. I mean, it’s all I’ve known in this life.
At the bottom of the logo, you can see “CANADA”. It serves as a home base for the company. The foundation of where Espresso Canada is owned and operated. At the very top, the espresso bean. I wanted to feature it like the Northern Star the shining light of the company. Because without the bean, there’d be no brand. Another reference to Canada.
At first glance, the bean looks like a typical bean. What I wanted to incorporate was a subtle nod to the journey in which the brand and its products take in order to find themselves in homes across North America. Think of it as a road or pathway.
The main focal point of the logo is “ESPRESSO”. This is a bit of a no brainer, as their main focus in the business is espresso. Let’s be real, sometimes the concept doesn’t always have to be deep and metaphorical.
Once the icon was developed, it was then time to develop branding across multiple platforms. This is probably my favourite part of making a business’ brand come to life. Thinking strategically about how the creative will apply itself to Instagram, printed assets, business cards and the rest.
The evolution of the colour palette was a collaborative effort between Elvira and myself. We wanted to evoke luxury without coming off as pretentious. Think of the lifestyle of a young professional who works hard for the money, but isn’t afraid to indulge in the nicer things life has to offer because hey - they earned it.
From there, I moved into the creation of a menu - a recipe guide for all things espresso. What the client wanted was clean, straightforward, with the Espresso Canada flair infused into every square inch of the layout.
The curvature you see throughout the branding is actually the shape of the dividing line, or the road, found within the bean. Everyone has a journey, their own path to take. Espresso Canada helps you on that road. This template would eventually find itself in the featured assets you see in this blog post - most effectively displayed on my Instagram page (click here to see the post itself). It can also be interpreted as the silhouette of a droplet, referencing the drip that takes place when the espresso is produced from the machine.
When I took on the project for Elvira and Luciano, I didn’t want the outcome to be just another expected, coffee-related brand. I also didn’t want to go too out in left field where a potential consumer would look at the branding and be confused.
If you’ve heard me talk about what it’s like to collaborate with my clients, you’d know that I love having the opportunity to bring two points of view together in order to create a unique product. As much as I like to think I’ve developed a specific wheelhouse when it comes to design, I know for a fact that without my client’s point of view blending nicely with my own creativity, I wouldn’t be able to produce the work that I do.
When putting a brand together, you want to think about what you want to say, who you’re communicating to and how do you want to engage?
The outcome : anything but stereotypical.