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Defining Your Brand’s Personality Through Illustration

Color, shape, movement, imagery, emotion, brand recognition, sales- illustration is a great solution for capturing and conveying the unique qualities, feelings, and emotions of your product on its packaging design. Whether you chose to be literal or abstract and expressive, illustration can be a great way to help your product to stand out, differentiate your brand from competitors and create brand recognition with shoppers.

While we can talk about illustration all day, we know less talk and more pretty photos are what you crave! So let’s dive in and take a look at a few different examples of illustration in the marketplace including one of our recent projects which features rich, expressive drawings to capture a sense of place.

Bold Characters

burnt salty buttmilk

Burnt & Salty create bold and unique flavor twists on traditional condiments like mustard and glazes. To capture their daring, irreverent take on traditional cuisine they’ve chosen to highlight a fun illustrated character for each of their flavors with stark silhouettes, crazy eyes, energetic shapes, and bright colors. The playful characters speak to the brand’s personality and adventurous products.

sauer Frau buttermilk creative

Sauer Frau bills itself as the first ever squeezable sauerkraut, kicking up the bratwurst game a few notches! Sauer Frau’s illustration style feels like something out of a comic book with restrained, formed lines. The “Sauer Frau” character as part of the logo pulls you in with her serious, no nonsense expression. Each flavor in the family has a simple yet bold color associated with it creating an unexpected billboard that still feels relevant in the condiment category.

Literally

ButtermilkBlog_epic

Epic Provisions has always done an amazing job showcasing their products through packaging design. One of their latest products, Pork Cracklings, feels like its been pulled from the pages of a mid-century kid’s adventure novel complete with a limited color palette and vintage inspired typography and shapes. The pig illustration is realistic and feels scientific or from a veterinary textbook. The illustrations on their packaging speak directly to their ‘back to basics’ view of food and their desire to utilize the simple yet powerful diets of our ancestors.

ButtermilkBlog_roland

Roland Foods is an importer of more than 1500 foods from around the world. They have a variety of packaging design within their product catalog, but the style that caught our eye is the realistic representation of products on their canned food. At first glance it almost reads as a photograph because the illustration is executed so pragmatically, yet upon further inspection you start to see little splashes here and there which add a layered homemade artisan feel to the restrained style.

Our Latest Project – Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Packaging Redesign

buttermilk creative

When we first started working on redesigning Virgin Islands Coffee Roaster’s packaging we knew we wanted to find a way to feature the lush colorful views of the Virgin Islands and try to create a sense of place.

ButtermilkBlog_vicrredesign2

We drew inspiration from Dorothy Draper’s iconic tropical floral wallpaper and merged that style with a coffee plant and bananaquit, a bird that is part of the Virgin Islands story and the brand. Wanting the plant to feel wild and organic, we allowed the coffee plant illustration to climb up one side of the front of the coffee bag then spread across the gusset and around the back.

We worked to create the feeling of looking through a coffee farm and discovering this packaging nestled in the leaves. The coffee labels each feature a scientific line drawing behind each coffee name in the product family, which provides a contrast to the more fluid coffee plant. Fresh, exotic, energetic and memorable we feel this packaging redesign captures the spirit of the brand and the product that lives inside.

Click the button below to view our Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Redesign project and many more ways we’ve helped client’s define their brand’s personality through compelling design. 

VIEW MORE WORK

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A Case for Packaging Redesign

The start of a new year gets everyone thinking about fresh starts. We set resolutions to exercise more, eat better, and other general improvements to our health and lifestyles. So what about brands – specifically those who have physical products? Should they be thinking about refreshing their look? We think so – read below to learn about when it’s time, what you should be thinking about, and see some real world examples from our client’s whom we’ve helped or are currently helping hit the refresh button.

When It’s Time

There are a few factors that go into determining when it’s time for a packaging redesign.

One is timing; if you are a fairly young company who’s had products out there for around 5 years or less you likely have the same packaging you launched with. Think about how much your company has changed over that time. So shouldn’t your packaging design follow that same trajectory? If you have a more mature company that is established and your products have been on the shelf for 10+ years then you can also use the 5 year rule. If you haven’t taken a hard look at how your packaging is performing on the shelf recently (or ever!) then resolve to go through that process soon -sales could be at stake.

Relevance is another. Whether you are established or fairly new it’s always good to have a pulse on what your competitors and the general market are doing design-wise and measuring against what you’re doing. Trends come and go and you should be wary of jumping on any bandwagon – however – there could be callouts, certifications, or an overall design shift worth noting and adjusting to. As new product offerings become more familiar the general public becomes more savvy and marketing copy, names, etc. might need to change to respond.

Efficiency is the last factor. Printing technology is an ever evolving industry and service. It’s always good to ask around and see if what you’re doing on the material side of things still makes sense. If you have pressure sensitive labels have you crunched the numbers between digital and offset printing to make sure you’re hitting the most cost effective minimums? If the numbers make sense, digital is a great way to run smaller quantities, or easily add special effects to your labels for instance. A redesign can also help simplify your assembly/production line by helping you rethink the way you are currently putting everything together or propose different packaging options.

Who have we helped or are helping redesign?

Most of the clients we’ve been with from the very start, but a few of them have come to us for help in redesiging their packaging. Below is an example of a redsign case hitting the shelves as we speak. The other two are currently going through the process, so we can’t share everything right now, but we hope to give you insight into how we’re working through both projects.

Re-Define
The team at Fire Cider have been at it making their tasty tonics since 2010. We started working with them reimagining their main packaging vehicle – the labels on their iconic amber boston round bottles. As we researched the competitive landscape and applied our best practices in packaging design we still needed to keep in mind that Fire Cider already had a strong, distinct look and quite a cult following. But we also knew there were areas we could improve around helping them standout on the shelf, highlighting their unique ingredients, helping shoppers quickly understand the product, and appealing to a broader and larger audience of retailers. Our redesign reorganized the label and focused the main content onto a colored badge in the middle of the label. Each of their flavors now have a color associated with them to help spotlight them on the shelf and help shoppers differentiate between their favorite tonics. We also worked closely with Fire Cider to provide space on the label for more concise storytelling, selling points, and conveying to the shopper what the tonic tastes like. The new labels are slowly hitting the shelves and getting great feedback so far. We’re excited to hear how this redesign will help Fire CIder grow their business this year. But don’t take our word – read Fire Cider’s press release announcing their new packaging here.

Re-Energize
After a devastating hurricane season last year, Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters are ready to refresh their packaging and reboot their brand. Since 2012, VICR have packaged their delicious coffee in kraft bags. At the time, it fit their handmade, artisan, rustic feel. But for their redesign we are looking at a few different, more colorful bag options that not only better embrace where their business is today but that also function better on the production side. Speeding up the bagging process for their employees not only means getting their delicious coffee out to more people faster but also drives down their labor costs. For the redesign we’re drawing inspiration from the bright, vibrant colors found in the caribbean, which we are experimenting incorporating into the various coffee labels. We’re also looking at including custom illustration inspired by the tropical wallpaper prints by Dorothy Draper. The spirit and resilience of the team at VICR is also inspiring as they set up their new roastery & tasting room in south Florida and continue to clean up the original roastery in St. Thomas. That’s all we can share for now – but stay tuned for the finished work.

Re-Imagine
The makers of TruAde came to us with a need to help breathe new life into a heritage brand. We first started researching the history of the brand to find any clues or elements we can use in the redesign. We loved the look and feel of the vintage TruAde advertising and marketing materials. Below you can see some of our favorites. As we looked over the materials we honed in on the star as a design element which could bridge the old and the new. The redesign encompasses multiple sizes, substrates, and containers which pose different challenges as we reimagined the new designs. We also had to figure out how to differentiate between several flavors. The original TruAde was very colorful, so we knew we would capitalize on that tradition as we put together the color palette for the brand. As we speak all of the files are off to the printer and should be launching soon. Once they hit the shelves we’ll be sharing the full redesign so stay tuned. For now we can share a little snippet of the new logo along with some of the historical reference we drew on for inspiration.

Redesigns can help your brand redefine, reenergize, and reimagine. They are a natural part of your company’s life cycle and should be taken into consideration as your brand grows.

Is your company interested in a redesign? Feel free to reach out to Andy or Nicole to chat about the project.

The Bird & the Brew: Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters Case Study

Occasionally we’ll share an in depth look into our work we do for clients. For our first post we’ll shed light on the packaging and logo redesign for the Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters.

Starting from Scratch

Our work with Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters actually started with an exploration into redesigning their packaging. But as we talked with Ramsey Smith, President & Co-Founder, we figured out that before we could work on packaging, we needed to create a new logo.

After researching ways to represent their unique island setting without clichés, we landed on the simple line art illustration of the Bananaquit, a common bird found all over the Virgin Islands. After digging deeper we learned that it also belongs to the Tanager family of birds, an important part of the coffee plant ecosystem.

Our first goal for the new logo is to be more relevant to the heart and soul of the brand and its unique location. Our second goal is to create something that can compete with the highly competitive current coffee category leaders. We felt the old logo was too limiting visually and typographically. The new logo features a unique and ownable typeface and iconic mark that is recognizable enough to appear on various materials, with or without the wordmark.

It’s in the Bag

As we finalized the logo we started working with the whole team at Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters to start brainstorming new packaging options. We had a few objectives we had to keep in mind:

  • must be sustainable & compostable
  • needs to be relevant
  • should to perform well on the production line.

We kept all of these in mind as we worked in the studio and on-site with the team prototyping options. We explored different layouts, materials, and structures as we honed in on the solution that worked best.

New Packaging

Our final packaging solution for Virgin Islands features a simple kraft square bottom gusseted coffee bag with a clean but dramatic narrow and long label that wraps around the front, top, and back of the bag – effectively sealing the bag. Three different sizes were created to accommodate the variations in product weights, all while keeping the look consistent.

The new packaging managed to preserve the brand’s hand-crafted feel but gave it a more sophisticated and eye-catching feel. VICR’s coffee is sold on crowded island grocery store shelves so we wanted to create a design that could stand out just about anywhere. The light label stock against the brown kraft bag creates engaging contrast, and the pop of yellow from the bananquit creates even more interest.

How Buttermilk made it better

“Since we launched the new logo and Packaging we’ve continued an 80% growth year over year.  

The new logo allowed us the flexibility to use it across the board in many mediums for customers signage, our merchandising and also expand our reach into creating our own brand identity.

The packaging was a large scale undertaking that increased our retail sales and opportunities well into the 100% year over year mark.  Packaging is a forever changing and very competitive market and having the ready to go support from Andy and Buttermilk allows us to stay ahead of the game.”

– RAMSEY SMITH, President & Co-Founder, VIRGIN ISLANDS COFFEE ROASTERS

Unpacking after 99U – Part 1

It’s been a little over a week since I left for New York City to attend the 99U Conference but it feels like a lifetime. I had such a great time exploring not only the city but also the far flung reaches of the other folks who identify themselves as being part of the design/creative industry. I’ve tried to organize my thoughts into two parts  – the City and the Conference. This is only a peek into everything I took away from both but I hope it sheds some light on an amazing few days.

Part 1 | The City

I made sure to arrive a couple of days before the conference to give me a little time to get out and explore as best as I can. Some of my goals included meeting up for dinner and drinks with a great client, Ty, from Dr. Harvey’s, sitting down with Steven from Brooklyn Roasting, and wandering through Brooklyn in search of amazing shops and packaging design – all of which I accomplished.

Dinner & Drinks

Getting to know clients on a human level is so important so when you have an opportunity to unplug and just discuss life over food and drinks you jump on it. We started at Westville East – a great little restaurant in the East Village. From there we ended up at the Summit Bar, another East Village establishment. I was amazed at the creativity exhibited in the cocktails. Ingredients from all over the board. We ended the evening at The Wayland, a great little juke joint that made this southern boy feel right at home. We discussed current projects, got some work done, but also got to learn a lot about each other which I believe is helpful when I need to do my job solving problems for his company.

Brooklyn Roasting

My first stop in Brooklyn was with Steven Jewett, bookkeeper(among many other things) for Brooklyn Roasting. Steven showed me around the roastery and gave me a unique peek into the business, all while I sipped on a cortado – my new favorite coffee drink. I was able to hang around and watch the roaster run and chat with some other patrons about their love for Brooklyn Roasting. —insert pics—-These folks are beyond successful and do a great job bringing the gospel of great coffee to the masses. I was able to glean a lot of learnings to bring to my client, Virgin Islands Coffee Roasters.

Brooklyn & Beyond

After getting properly caffeinated and devising my final game plan I hit the streets in search of cool markets and packaging. My first stop was just checking out the views:

After wandering around like a legit tourist I made my way to Foragers – a really cool market with a ton of interesting products from Brooklyn and all over. I went way over my R&D budget buying up innovative coffee, granola, and chocolate packaging just to name a few. The interior of Foragers is really inspiring too with a great aesthetic and vibe letting everything speak for itself.

 

I wandered farther down into Brooklyn and found The Greene Grape – another great market. The store design was really nice and each department had its own vibe. I picked up some pretty and tasty goods and sat out on a bench in front and chatted with Brooklynites having their lunch and hearing their perspective on their neighborhood and the kinds of products they find themselves buying these days. Ginger shots kept popping up so who knows- that might be the next big thing.

 

The rest of the time in the city was spent attending the conference (see Part 2) and taking short little trips on foot – here’s a few of my favorites:

Great Coffee Shops:

Lucky Goat

Annex | The Greene Grape

Rex Coffee

Favorite Lunch Place:

The Meatball Shop

Favorite Area to Wander:

Central Park

Favorite Bar:

The Wayland

Stay tuned for Part 2 where I discuss the conference and some of the takeaways I learned.

Post Revisit: A Snapshot of Specialty Coffee Packaging

Its always good practice (and fun!) to take a look back and reread what we’ve written about during the life of our little blog. We recently revisited a post from August 2013 titled “A Snapshot of Specialty Coffee Packaging” (click here to read.)

The post focused on coffee packaging — where we’ve been, where we are presently, and where we predicted we were going. While it was good to revisit the whole post, we’d like to focus on that last bit — the part where we predicted where we felt the specialty coffee packaging was moving towards. Below is the actual snippet from our post:

“We believe the future of specialty coffee packaging will move away from the simple, clean, industrial look for a more expressive style that really shows the personality of the brand. We think customers don’t need to see another kraft bag to denote quality and an expressive bag will also do a better job telling the story, something that is resonating more and more with shoppers nowadays .”

The reason we revisited this post is because we’re seeing a lot of examples of the very thing we were predicting (which is very exciting) which means we might know a little bit about what we do!

Two great examples of what we predicted coming to life are Starbucks special Tribute Blend packaging and Brewklyn Grind Coffee Roasters rebrand and packaging. Both hit home the thought we put forth about “moving away from clean, simple industrial look” and move towards “a more expressive style.” We even had conversations about how cool coffee packaging would be with fine art prints on the label- something Brewklyn pulled of nicely. 

Image via The Dieline

Image via The Dieline

Starbucks Tribute Blend

As you can see in the Starbucks packaging they are getting really conceptual with this design. Take a look at that bag. It’s just designs and elements with this beautiful painterly circle as the focal point. The asymmetrical design is very eye catching and grabs your attention on shelf. There’s no denying the contents are something special and unique. 

Starbucks is no stranger to expressive packaging and is one of the few specialty coffee companies whose packaging moved away from the kraft coffee bag look long ago — but the Tribute Blend feels new and fresh. We feel like it really embodies the vision we laid out back in August.

Image via The Dieline

Image via The Dieline

Brewklyn Grind Coffee Roasters

Brewklyn Grind has really embraced expressive fine art for their new packaging and redesign. What’s really neat about Brewklyn Grind is they are collaborating with local Brooklyn artists to help create the art for their packaging. It’s not just some random digital design they’re using. We find this to truly embody “artisan” and take it to a whole new level. Why not make each bag a little work of art? Those who appreciate fine coffee are usually the same people who appreciate fine art. 


So there you have it. We’re very interested to see how this trend will play out in the coffee packaging landscape over the next year or so. Who knows- we might have to revisit this post!

#buttermilkinboston – Day 2

#buttermilkinboston is a daily recap of our experiences at the HOW Live Design Conference in Boston. Follow the hashtag on our Twitter and Instagram accounts to keep up with all the excitement. Click here to read our Day 1 Recap.

We’re putting day 2 behind us and it was a blast and a blur! What an amazing day. We presented our session at The Dieline Conference, got interviewed by Package Design Magazine, and attended some great sessions at HOW Design Live.

We started the day off at an amazing little coffee shop called The Thinking Cup. We just found it wandering down Newbury St. on the way to the Hynes. We were able to grab a great breakfast that filled us up and sustained us for our presentation at 10:15. Highly recommended if you find yourself needing a good cup of coffee and a tasty breakfast pastry while in Boston. 

Our breakfast from The Thinking Cup

Our breakfast from The Thinking Cup

Then it was off to present our session “Oops I became a Package Designer” at The Dieline Conference. We were the opening session so our stomachs were in knots until we took the stage. Based on the packed house til the end of our talk and the lively Q and A we really felt like we resonated with the audience. It was great to hear from everyone and check out the lively discussion afterwards on Twitter and Instagram. But we sure are glad we’ve got that behind us so we can focus on the rest of the conference.

The crowd! Such a great group of folks!

The crowd! Such a great group of folks!

One of the most well received slides we presented was our “Discovery Brief”. Basically this is a form we created to use at the beginning of a project. We customized it for our projects to help keep us on track with asking the right questions and to really experience the product before we start designing (we insist on tasting everything before we design for it). We shared the file with The Dieline, so feel free to download a copy of it here and customize it for your own use!

Our Discovery Brief

Our Discovery Brief

After our interview with Package Design Magazine we headed back to the conference to attend Peleg Top‘s session about Marketing Strategies for Attracting Your Ideal Clients. This great session got us thinking about how best to market ourselves to the right audience. Peleg Top shared his calendar which his firm sent out every month for 14 years as a promo piece as an example of creating something that keeps you in the forefront of your current and potential clients minds. Definitely got us thinking about our upcoming promo piece and how to make it into a series we send out every couple months instead of a one off piece. 

The next and last session of the day we attended was from John Nunziato of Little Big Brands about 35 points to think about when starting a design firm. Some points resonated with us more than others but it was still neat to get some insight into the history of LBB and know that he was at one point working out of a tiny room in his house- something we know all about! Some of the other standouts from his presentation were:

  • Institute a “No Asshole” rule. There’s too many beautiful people and things in the world to worry about these types of people.
  • Respect yourself! Don’t do spec work!
  • If its not a show, its not a go! 

Listening to John’s talk got us daydreaming about what and where Buttermilk will go in the near future. Very exciting stuff.

John Nunziato presenting.

John Nunziato presenting.

We wrapped up day 2 with an AMAZING meal at Island Creek Oyster Bar (first destination we can check off from this wish list) We had the pleasure of dining with our friends from Theory House and My Private Brand — it’s always such a great time geeking out with other fellow creatives!

Insane raw platter from Island Creek Oyster Bar!

Insane raw platter from Island Creek Oyster Bar!

So that closes our Day 2 recap. We’ve got a couple more days of insight and inspiration and can’t wait to see what else we learn.

Keep an eye out for our Day 3 recap tomorrow!