Responses by Michael Hester, creative director and designer, Pavement.
Background: Utopian Coffee was founded by a backpacking vagabond who fell in love with coffee-producing countries, particularly their diverse cultures and people. Today, this has evolved into an intentional commitment to invest in and learn from coffee producers firsthand. “Farm direct” may be a catchphrase for some, but it’s a non-negotiable lifestyle choice for Utopian Coffee. The brand didn’t fully tell the story of the owner or the level of craft that went into Utopian’s coffees. The client really wanted to create something unique and memorable that told their story better so that they could stand out among other prominent third-wave coffee roasters.
Design thinking: To capture Utopian’s unwavering brand promises of sustainability and fair trade, we evolved its branding and packaging design into a vibrant representation of the sources of its coffees. “Utopian” is such a great brand name, so we really wanted to bring that to life visually as best as possible. Colorful full-bleed illustrations of surrealistic flora and fauna replaced Utopian’s previous stark-blue identity. The brand illustrations captured this sense of a Garden of Eden, or “utopia,” to romanticize the coffees’ tropical origins sourced by the owner through his travels.
Challenges: Instilling the confidence in the client to take such a bold leap forward with their redesign. There was certainly an appetite for it during the briefing process, but further reassurance was necessary. In reality, the client had full faith in the process and, in the end, trusted our recommendations.
Favorite details: Undoubtedly the illustration that was created as the anchor for this redesign. The surrealistic interpretation of a harmonious tropical ecosystem captured the core values of the company.
Visual influences: Vintage botanical illustrations with all their intricate detail and timeless beauty served as an initial inspiration for the final brand solution. But, we knew we had to give these a fresh, unexpected interpretation. The work of illustrator Teagan White captured this as well, so we partnered with them to create the brand illustration that served as the centerpiece of the packaging redesign.
Specific project demands: Right from the start, the client specifically expressed that they wanted to see concepts that stood apart from their competition. They wanted us to “just go for it.” Whenever you have a client who lets you be unshackled with your creativity right from the start, it always makes the process easier and more fun.