Ethnica Coffee Brand Case Study

A project which involves great tasting coffee, ethically sourced practices and stories of jungle pilot adventures is something I’m glad to be a part of.

Charlie & Ruth are the owners of Ethnica Coffee Co. They have spent their lives around the world flying small aircrafts as a jungle pilot and now are starting a business which connects to those areas through coffee. They approached me with the opportunity to develop their brand and visual identity and I am so grateful they did! They have a rich history which overlaps with their brand story so I wanted to have a design that was true to their needs and how they would use it in the future. The word ‘ethnica’ relates to the different ethnicities and the areas of the world where they source their coffee. They are running their business to be a benefit both to the source and to the consumers.

Brand Needs
• communicate Charlie & Ruth’s story
• set up in such a way as to be repeatable for them to manage their brand in the future
• allow room to grow as this is just a startup and will probably change drastically over the next few years
• have clean, modern aesthetics

How to communicate craftsmanship?

I started the design with the logo and looked into using a handmade font. This is the vibe I was going for, something that was handcrafted, and still had coarse edges, but was clean in its spacing and presentation. This would also play into the repeatability of the brand and keep costs low in the future as opposed to having it based on a one-off hand-lettered piece.

I prefer hand illustration and lettering in my designs since it communicates authenticity and in this case, craftsmanship. The hurdle with having organic elements in a design is to make sure the other elements have clear guidelines and plenty of white space otherwise it can look messy.

The Importance of a Color Palette in Coffee Roasting

Having a well defined color palette is a hallmark of most great brands. But in the world of coffee it goes well past the form of the brand and way into the function.

With many coffee roasters they face the problem of communicating the many different regions and processes of coffee they offer. One of the most relied upon method of overcoming these hurdles is through the use of color. The reason being is that it communicates faster than text, and can be seen a few feet from the shelf. So if you are offering more than 5 different styles of coffee at any given time, chances are you are going to want to have them quickly recognized by customers ready to purchase.

Many roasters opt for just picking a new color whenever a new bean comes in, but taking the time to outline the specific color values with a broad color palette can help your brand in the long run.

Rather than pick a color palette that relates to specific colors (i.e. blues, or warm colors) it is best to pick one that relates to color styles (vibrant, pastels, washed out, etc.). It helps avoid the confusing conversations where a repeat customers asks if you have any more of the ‘blue’ coffee they really liked but can’t remember the origin name and you have to ask “did you mean light blue, dark blue, teal or aqua?”.

Labels: Keeping it Simple

When it came to labels we wanted it to be clean, recognizable and repeatable.

The slash of color on the top allowed for them to differentiate their coffees from one another and played into the same angle of “Ethnica” on the top. It incorporates motion (perhaps like the take off of a plane) and allows the logo to be placed right on the label.

In the future they can remove the logo from the label should they choose to have their bags printed or stamped with their logo, then just put the origin in the colored area. But this was a choice made for cost effectiveness and scalability since it was a startup.

Use of white space on the right side allows for different patterns to be incorporated which tie into motifs which correlate to the farmers and regions. I gave them a mockup of how it could be so that in the future, should they choose to develop this side of their brand story they could do so without having to rebrand.

Collateral Pieces:

Two different versions of the planes Charlie flew over the world. These are taildraggers mind you (a term I had never heard of before having begun this project). Along with some badges he could use in print materials or online.

One badge reads “Your Wingman for the Mornings” which connected with Charlie & Ruth’s personal story, and the other reads “A World of Good in Every Cup” which expresses how they ethically source their beans.

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