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Branding: Sisola a Direct Trade Coffee Company

A New Approach To Coffee Needed a New Look

Sisola is just a couple months old as a business, but the guys running it have been fostering the idea for quite some time. They have a direct trade approach to coffee and have their sites set on creating a high quality bean using techniques and processing methods which have yet to be introduced in the specific area they’re working in. Through educating farmers, giving them better-than-fair wages, and providing on-sight quality control they are on their way to seeing high scoring beans come out of the region.


Discovering Their Why: Togetherness

After learning about their business we dove into the why. As we talked through things it came down to a two fold focus in their business. Produce the highest quality bean possible from that region and elevate the farmers livelihoods.

And as we boiled that focus down the ethos of their business emerged. How they do it is by togetherness. From the farmers to the roasters and onto the consumers it’s about being transparent and doing it together. The guys running Sisola are actually living, with their respective families, alongside these farmers and their families. And the roasters they work with over the oceans aren’t just about making a buck but are aiming to run successful businesses while using sustainable practices which respect and value for the farmers. What we get to drink in that final cup represents a whole team of people working together.


Branding for Sustainable, For-Profit Businesses

It’s always about the story when it comes to branding. But when you work with businesses that have social principles as part of their DNA, the brand needs to tell not only the business’ story but the stories of all the people involved in making it happen. They are a third wave coffee company and one of their top needs would be having a brand that would be able to tell their story and the stories of the farmers.

Sisola is a brand that doesn’t reside in photoshoots and polished atmospheres but lives among people working in the midst of various places. Whether its with the deep red cherries at harvest, the sweeping hills of coffee trees, working at the sorting tables or packing it up and delivering it down rough dirt roads, the brand needed to be strong enough to not get lost in all that goes into making those complex flavors in that final cup of coffee.

We needed something that had a heavy weight rather than using thin lines or soft palettes.

Working with multiple client input.

This is where a lot of design jobs can derail. It’s at this point that all those questionnaires I send my clients in the beginning of any project really pay off. If you have clearly outlined your why, and know who your customer is, then the decisions on how the aesthetic looks will be able to fall in place. 

For the Sisola Brand Design I was working with co-founders. Each one had an equal say in the brand and each one brought their own perspective and opinions to the project. They were both on board for the components of the logo but they had very different styles in regards to the aesthetics. 

We went through a bunch of sketches. Some were circular, some had hard edges, some were complex and some were simplistic. In the end the owners wanted something which incorporated a green coffee bean cut in half which incorporated the letter ‘S’.

At one point one of the owners thought an additional outline to the logo would look much better because it would make it look like a badge and look bold. The other owner didn’t care for it much. But because we had already outlined the target audience and what it was we wanted to communicate we were able to test it against those goals. Would it communicate togetherness? Lend itself to telling the story of its workers? Would it help it be adaptable? What does it add to our goals & what does it take away?

It actually did look good in its own way when it looked like a badge with an additional outline. But in the end we didn’t go with it because it did not help the brand reach its goals in what it was trying to communicate.


The Design

We started with several rounds of sketches and boiled it down to three. The first is more abstract and would lend itself more to the adaptability side of the brand. The second showcased the bean more than the rest. And the third communicated the togetherness of the brand.

We went with the third. The bean is less noticeable but the simplicity of the mark, and the way it looked as if two hands were joining together to make the “S” aligned it with the rest of the brand story of doing it together.

The Aestetics

The brand needed to be adaptable. So we went with a lot of sub-marks and created two-tone color options that could be used in the future should they need to. Because they were starting out and there were a few directions they could go depending on whether they would branch out with different beans or in neighboring regions we thought it would be good to have a color palette which could adjust to those varying brand pieces.

Also the amount of sub-fonts gave the brand more depth and added energy. This is increasingly important for brands which need to show their logo in all the various social platforms. Whether its a square, circle or rectangle, Sisola will have a mark which matches its brand and fits their story.

Brand Overview:

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