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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

Our insights from this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC | Trend 3: Revolutionary Redesigns

About a month ago we headed up to the Specialty Food Association’s Summer Fancy Food Show to walk the many aisles and see the best & brightest amongst specialty food and beverage. The Following posts run through our insights we’re excited to share.

Trend 3. Revolutionary Redesigns

Redesigns are big and scary undertakings but when brands decide to refresh it can pay off with better relevance with new customers and an opportunity to freshen up a potentially stagnant brand. We noticed a few big brands going through facelifts and redesigns.

Morris Kitchen:
Morris Kitchen threw us for a loop (in the best way) with their sleek, simple, illustration pattern driven redesign. We’ve always loved Morris Kitchen for their unique take on cocktail mixers and tasty concoctions like Tomato Beet and Citrus Agave. Their old design felt homemade and simple, which fit with the brand’s positioning- but the design update feels fresh and contemporary and will definitely stand out on the shelf. The simplified treatment of the ingredients in each label drives home the fact that there’s only the best inside.

Roland Foods:
Heirloom brand Roland Foods keeps their heritage with a simplified treatment for their wordmark and refreshed packaging design. We love that they were able to simplify the logo but keep the wordmark in place. The new mark will be more flexible across the brand and could introduce Roland to new customers. They really upped their packaging design game as well with interesting photography work adorning their canned goods and amazing bold colors for their sardines, just to highlight a few.  

And not a full redesign…

Bob’s Red Mill:
but we appreciated this new take on presentation within their brand from Bob’s Red Mill for their line of Muesli. We’re used to seeing Bob’s Red Mill products in clear sealed bags with a label and Bob’s smiling face. However those bags aren’t the easiest to work with once opened – plus we felt like there’s a ton of opportunity there for a design refresh. So we were excited to spot this particular update to both the bag and the design for their Muesli. Still staying true to their original look and feel with Bob’s likeness but pulling in new typography with a vintage feel, plus the use of banners as containers for content helps organize the front panel. And the scroll work and filigree elements add a nice homespun touch, reinforces the brands core values.

Read our Trend #1 Post

Read our Trend #2 Post

Our favorite Pumpkin Packaging

Leaves are falling, a chill is in the air, shorter days, and there is massive amounts of pumpkin flavored products filling the marketplace. That’s right people- it is officially fall! Like it or not, the pumpkin has worked its way into our psyche and every year around this time we are drawn to anything carrying its warm, spicy, orange glow. Below Alex and I have picked out our favorite pumpkin packaging out there this year. So bundle up, grab a PSL, and enjoy!

Andy’s Picks

I have to admit; I am an absolute SUCKER for pumpkin stuff. I first encountered pumpkin themed products when I purchased my first pumpkin beer a few years back (featured below.) I was instantly enchanted with the flavor and spice that I would soon associate with “pumpkin” even though actual pumpkins don’t really taste like anything. Over the years I am more and more drawn to simplified integration of the pumpkin in packaging, a theme I think comes through in the products below.

1. Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale. Image via Brew York. 2. Big Boss Brewing Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale. Image via Beer Pulse. 3. Cocina Antica Tuscany Pumpkin pasta sauce. Image via Cucina Antica.

1. Brooklyn Brewery’s Post Road Pumpkin Ale

My all time favorite pumpkin packaging. This was my first foray into pumpkin flavored products. At the time it was the design that drew me to this packaging, not the fact that it was a pumpkin beer. I didn’t even know what that was at the time. I was immediately drawn to this dark gray package with this bright orange etched style pumpkin. And when I first bought this I don’t remember seeing that it was brewed by Brooklyn Brewery so it just had this mysteriousness about it- what is this Post Road? Who makes it? and why does it taste so damn good. As for design this takes the cake in my book: sophisticated color palette, not too over the top “fall” or “pumpkin”, the typography is a nod to the colonial time, when apparently our fore fathers brewed lots of pumpkin beer. And I love how simple the design is.

2. Big Boss Brewing Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale

Now for something completely different! After my initiation into the cult of pumpkin with Post Road I starting seeking the flavor out, especially in the beer aisle. Which led me to Big Boss Brewing’s offering: Harvest Time Pumpkin Ale. I love all of Big Boss’ design (done amazingly by Scott Pridgen and McKinney) so it’s no surprise I was drawn to this label. But more than that it’s just so bad ass. From the metallic ink, the illustrated skull, and the cliche horror movie typography it just screams “DRINK ME BEFORE I EAT YOUR BRAINS.” While the Post Road label is classic and harkens back to the colonial days, this one reminds us of the cheap thrills of a vintage horror flick. This is my second favorite pumpkin beer, Post Road is the first.

3. Cocina Antica Tuscany Pumpkin pasta sauce

Just so you don’t get the wrong idea and think all I do is sit around and drink beer my next product is Cucina Antica’s take on the pumpkin product. I love Cucina Antica’s labels, always have. I love how their labels look like a page ripped out of a sketchbook and this pumpkin one is no different. The pumpkin illustration is handled in a great way, loose and sketchy with just the right amount of detail. The color is great too and really draws you in since the rest of the label is just black on kraft. I also appreciate the simplicity and nod to the design structure of their other flavors in this label, just because its pumpkin doesn’t mean they have to reinvent the wheel.

 

Hopscotch Music & Design Festival

This past weekend I helped my wife run a booth for her business, Un Original Americain, at the Rock and Shop Market during the day party for the Hopscotch Music Festival. It was a great day of meeting lots of folks, selling some great hand made sewn goods, and over hearing some great music.

I must say, I’ve been design crushing on the Hopscotch design materials the minute they went up on the web. To my surprise it turns out hometown heroes Airtype are responsible for it all and they did an amazing job.

Based on their website, Airtype worked with the organizers of Hopscotch to redesign EVERYTHING from their logo to the website. And all of it looks great! I love the clean, bold look of the logo with the H becoming a little hopscotch grid.

image via Airtype

image via Airtype

The look and aesthetic continues throughout the website and everything feels cohesive. The experience is great scrolling along from latest news to a beautiful layout of ticket prices. Organizing all the info to capture an understandable schedule of 150 bands over 3 days is no easy undertaking but the Airtype folks make it look easy.

In addition to the Hopscotch Music Fest work Airtype also worked on the first annual Hopscotch Design Festival website. Another great looking, clean, easy to experience website with beautiful color overlays for large photo graphics and bold typography- all the stuff us designers totally geek out on- an essential thing for any design fest is to look good!

If you haven’t heard of Airtype you are missing out on some amazing work as well as amazing folks- they’re the real deal!

#buttermilkorbust Triad Startup Lab 2014: Week Five

#buttermilkorbust is a weekly recap of our experiences going through the Triad Startup Lab 2014 Session B. For less formal updates you can follow #buttermilkorbust on Twitter. Missed a week? Click below to get caught up:

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4


Well here we are- half way through the Startup Lab program. Hard to believe…

We spent week 5 actually out of the Startup Lab believe it or not- we had a couple of networking events lined up so we focused our energy on getting prepped and attending those.

Our first networking event was one hosted by a local BNI chapter. For those that aren’t familiar with BNI these are called “leads groups” – which means each member of the group is expected to bring to the rest of the group a certain number of leads from their own personal network. And in turn that very person gets leads which “lead” to more work for them. Our group was hosted by the President of the chapter Jim Halsch of Gate City Advisors. The minute we walked into his office Jim and the other members of the chapter made us feel right at home. The group meets first thing in the morning so there were bagels and coffee ready to go. The format of the meeting is really neat- each person stands and gives a 60 second pitch that includes info about their company as well as what type of leads they are looking for that week. There’s also an education portion and an opportunity for each member to do a short presentation about their business. This past week was Jim’s turn and believe it or not we really enjoyed learning about the nuances of retirement planning! 

The BNI group was great- we’re visiting another one in the next couple of weeks to determine whether or not we’ll join up.

Our other event we had on the calendar was a less formal, more social one hosted by synerG, a local group of young Greensboro professionals. The event was called synerG “On Tap” and was hosted at GIA, a local small plate restaurant and bar. We had a great time at the synerG event as well, the vibe was very social and fun. But we still made some really great connections and can see us attending another one soon. These kinds of events are great to connect with folks without the pressure of delivering anything but some good conversation. Some highlights included chatting with an entrepreneur working on a unique service that will help you pick a car based on your style.

We consider both the networking events we attended last week a success. Networking, like a lot of other things around starting a business, doesn’t happen over night. You have to invest some time (and occasionally some money) to make valuable connections that will pay off in the end. But don’t go into networking with transactions as the end goal. Go into it wanting to meet amazing people, try and learn as much as you can from those people, and share what you know freely, and you’ll find that the networking part and the business part, will come along naturally and organically.

#buttermilkorbust Triad Startup Lab 2014: Week Four

#buttermilkorbust is a weekly recap of our experiences going through the Triad Startup Lab 2014 Session B. For less formal updates you can follow #buttermilkorbust on Twitter. Missed a week? Click below to get caught up:

Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3

Time flies when you’re having fun right? Well guess what- it flies when you’re not having fun too! Here we are in Week Four of the Startup Lab- it feels like we just started but we are a week away from the halfway point? Scary. Time is zooming by. And what do we mean about not having fun? Well we don’t actually mean we aren’t having “fun” per se, but to be fully transparent, going through the right steps to start your business is no joke. We’ve been scratching our heads and staring blankly at each other more than we’ve had “aha!” moments or a sense we know whats going on or where we’re going. It’s been challenging for sure.

But you know what? It’s these very reasons why we know we’re on the right path (whatever path that is!) Frankly, if you’re not scared shitless and not making it up as you go, then you need to shake things up because you’re boring and not using what you’ve got to its full potential. 

Week Four brought us some experts in their field. First off we got to sit down and meet with Steve Brock, Business Coach Rock Star. We got the low down from Steve about how to strategically plan for marketing. Steve shared with us a tool called the “Five Ways” model. As he puts it, “It is a framework for managing/driving revenue and profits.” The “Five Ways” makes the connection between leads and revenues, and gives you a great idea of “If you want to make this much money, you need to connect with this many customers.” We’re going to sit down again with Steve soon and continue our discussion now that we’ve had a little time to digest what we talked about.

Later in the week we met with Michael Hentschel. Michael helped us navigate a financial cash flow spreadsheet, no easy task for designers to wrap their heads around. But Michael was patient and explained the important cells we needed to focus on. He also helped us set up a “Client Pipeline” spreadsheet to help us start to map out potential business, who it’s coming from, and what we can expect as far as sales go. What that will do is start to give us a picture of what type of business and clients constitute the bulk of our work so we start to better focus our position in the market.

So like we said, this week was not necessarily what folks would consider “fun” but this is the work that needs to be done if we want to make this happen. And you want to know the exciting news? We’ve got 6 weeks left to keep working, keep learning, and keep having “fun!” 

#buttermilkorbust Triad Startup Lab 2014: Week Three

#buttermilkorbust is a weekly recap of our experiences going through the Triad Startup Lab 2014 Session B. For less formal updates you can follow #buttermilkorbust on Twitter. Missed a week? Click below to get caught up:

Week 1 | Week 2


We can’t believe its already time to recap Week Three of the Startup Lab! Time sure does fly by… when you’re having fun… or working hard (or both!)

If Week 2 was about trying to figure out who we are and what differentiates us, Week 3 was about who we will actually go and talk to about those qualities- identifying our customer and then trying to figure out where those folks hang out.

So how do you identify your target audience so you know who you need to speak too? Well lucky for us at the Startup Lab we have an incredible resource: Abby Donnelly of The Leadership & Legacy Group.

To prepare for our meeting with Abby we read her book Networkingworks! so we could start wrapping our heads around this idea of networking. Believe it or not, the idea of networking is somewhat new to us. We’ve always been designers in-house, we have never had to worry about where our next project was coming from and up until now, we’ve really only ever networked with other designers and creative professionals. Abby’s book is filled with helpful worksheets to help us begin to identify who our target customer is, how to find them and how to speak to them.

When we got to sit down with Abby we started talking about referrals and the importance of teaching your contacts how to give a good referral. We further discussed how we frame our case to hire us. As we’ve discussed before, design is not enough. You have to speak to your prospective client in the language of solutions to their problems. What are their pain points and speak specifically about how you can solve them.

We also discussed with Abby which networking events we should start attending. Since our time is limited she helped us identify ones that would be the most bang for our buck- both time and monetarily speaking. We had already committed going to the next synerG On Tap event on August 13 so we talked about different format groups, smaller ones that are a little more business focused and not so social. Abby was kind enough to put us in touch with a few local people who organize BNI and Leads groups so we can join and start participating in some real networking.

We’re so glad we got to sit down with Abby and learn from a great teacher about the nuances and importance of networking. It’s definitely changed the way we think about who we are, who we want to talk to, and who we NEED to talk to.

So we ended another week at the Startup lab with all our assumptions turned upside down and  different people than the ones who started Week 2 which feels really good. It’s tough to continually question things you had initially thought were true about you and your business but it’s so important. And luckily we have the folks at the Startup Lab to helps us through those questions and revelations. 

#buttermilkorbust Triad Startup Lab 2014: Week Two

#buttermilkorbust is a weekly recap of our experiences going through the Triad Startup Lab 2014 Session B. For less formal updates you can follow #buttermilkorbust on Twitter. Missed a week? Click below to get caught up:

Week 1


Week Two of Triad Startup Lab was last week and it was a doozy. We identified some opportunities, challenges, and where we go from here.

Early in the week we came into the Lab and shared some potential exciting developments. Our friends Kent and Dana of Maslo Trading Co. were there as well so we bounced some ideas off of them. As we talked with the group the conversation eventually led to these questions:

What makes you different? What value do we bring?

We must answer these questions because design is not enough. Every business should really sit back and think about these two questions if you haven’t already.

Alex and I had previously landed on a statement we felt summed up the above questions. It went a little something like this: 

We’re Buttermilk, a small studio specializing in packaging, brand building, big ideas, delicious design and happy clients.

But after our discussion with the group we felt like this statement was merely scratching the surface. It was a starting place, but not nearly the finished product. And when we really stood back and read it there was no meat or substance.

Our next meeting in the Lab was Friday, so we hunkered down Wednesday night and got to work figuring out just what value do we bring? 

Working with a shared Google Doc we started pulling inspiration from other studios we felt had really great statements. From there we started listing our qualities and offerings. After lots of debate about what certain words meant, which qualities were priority, and of course some silliness to break up all the seriousness we arrived at the following statement:

We are down to earth. Ambitious. And a little scrappy. We create amazing and honest work. We will honor your vision and exceed your expectations. And we can do it at the drop of a hat. We aim to build lasting partnerships and promise to keep up our end of the bargain. Pinky swear.

We really feel like this sums up what Buttermilk brings to the table. It’s us for sure. The beginning speaks to our personalities, the middle gives you an idea of how we work, and the end brings it all home with a promise. 

Is it 100% there? We don’t know- we’re going to live with it for a little while. Try it out and see how well it fits. Right now we feel really good about it though. We also feel good about the leg work we did to get to this statement. We didn’t pull it out of thin air. This statement was born out of a process.

Our second day in the Lab was spent with Joel Bennet, Director of the Startup Lab, discussing important things like:

“Which clients do we want?”

“Where will we get those clients?”

“How can we get involved in the local business community?”

There was a lot of back and forth, both Joel challenging our ideas and thoughts, and us challenging his. Nurturing a new business is not pretty, nor for the faint of heart. But we didn’t get into this or want to go through the Startup Lab because it’s easy. Towards the end of our meeting we all identified some homework for Alex and I. In August, in an effort to get better plugged into the local business community, we will be attending the next “synerG On Tap” social meet up on August 13th, as well as identifying one more networking opportunity before the end of the month. We will also be going into the Lab this upcoming week to meet with a networking professional and hopefully learn some tips and tricks.

Looking back it was a big week in the Lab. Some questions were answered, thoughts completed, but tons more were posed and opened up. It’s hard to believe we have 8 more weeks! Let’s do this!

Triad Startup Lab 2014: Session B Summer Business Accelerator

We’re excited to announce that Buttermilk will be participating in Session B of the Triad Startup Lab’s summer business accelerator.

What is the Triad Startup Lab 2014? 

Triad Startup Lab is an intensive immersion experience for Triad startups who want to grow their business rapidly. This summer, founders and teams will roll up their sleeves in a shared office space, working alongside experienced mentors and advisors that impart their business acumen and open their networks.

— http://www.startuplab2014.com/about.html

That’s how they describe it in their own words. But what does Triad Startup Lab 2014 mean to us? Well, we see it as yet another chapter in this crazy journey of starting a business. But not just any chapter — this could be the chapter where we launch! We’re not holding our breath but we’re also giving it all we’ve got to get Buttermilk off the ground!

Over the next 10 weeks we’ll be reflecting on our journey within the Triad Startup Lab every week right here on our blog. You can also follow the hashtag #buttermilkorbust over on our Twitter feed and Instagram for less formal reflections and sneak peeks into the space.

We’ve got lots of homework to prep for our first week in the Lab and a few meetings with great new collaborators to help us along our way. Next week we’ll be sharing our thoughts on Week 1.

 

Get Away from the Computer: Computer Bag DIY

I love looking at cool products, especially really nice computer bags and luggage. Its with this interest i have become slightly enamored with a Seattle company called Filson. Filson creates some amazing jackets, totes, and luggage. Born in the Pacific Northwest you know these products will last more than a few rainy/cold seasons and long distance trips. Sadly (for me, not them) Filson products are very expensive. I’m not complaining about the price, I know they are worth every penny (see this blog post for more on why great things cost money.) It’s just that at this very moment in my life I am unable to drop $200 on a medium tote for my Macbook Pro. But I need a bag to haul and protect my hardware. What to do?

Well I’m glad you asked: I’ll just have to make one myself. Not from scratch though- no this will be an upcycled existing leather messenger bag. My beloved leather messenger bag came to me right before I went off to college. It was from Banana Republic and the only way we were able to afford it was because our next door neighbor worked there and let us use his discount, and the bag was already on clearance. So there I was- off to college with a brand spanking new leather messenger bag. Hot stuff.

I used my messenger bag throughout college. It hauled art history books, sketchbooks, paints, brushes, and palettes. But when I joined the workforce there was no need for a messenger bag so it fell by the wayside. It moved from Florida to North Carolina, from one house to another. Even though it wasn’t in use I couldn’t bear to donate or get rid of it.

And thank goodness I did keep it around all these years because as I was looking through a Filson catalogue an idea struck- take that old messenger bag and make it new- inspired by the designs of Filson.

So with some scrap leather from my wife’s enterprise and some old leather making tools I went to work. I removed the shoulder strap (it was way too long to begin with) and put it back on with a shorter length and swivel latches. I added leather straps so I can carry it more like a briefcase if I’m so inclined. And I added a little leather strap to secure the top closed. I came up with my own pattern of stitches (which would probably make any self-respected leatherworker cringe) and sewed everything as best as I could.

After a few long nights of punching leather with an awl (and having really sore hands!) my bag was complete. I’m really happy with how it turned out- I think it looks really great and more importantly it serves its purpose- it transports and protects my Macbook (in style!)

Having a Filson would have been really great and I know it would have served its purpose as well but there’s just nothing like creating something with your own two hands that cost you just the materials and your time. There’s a sense of pride and ownership that just doesn’t happen when you just go out and purchase something. Theres just no other feeling like it.

The finished bag

The finished bag