Creating a Coffee Brand - A Brief Look into Our Creative Process
Numerous new coffee shops are established every single year from around the world; some of them become successful within their community, and some even become an international phenomenon. Great quality products and customer service plays a massive role in their success, but branding is also important, an aspect often overlooked and under-appreciated especially if it's done the right way. Exceptional branding basically feels seamless and natural; customers are drawn to the brand without second thought, and everything seems to make sense to them. The visual identity, which includes aspects such as packaging design, interior design, down to the uniforms of the staff members, all provides a strong foundational support to the products without screaming out its importance. Branding done right allows all the shareholders and staff members to operate with confidence and pride, which overall affects their performance and dedication to the success of the company.
The Story & Meaning
When the team first sat down together to plan the project, we knew that we didn't want to start purely a business selling coffee, we wanted our brand to be more than that. Our goal was to share a concept, to tell a story through coffee. To us, coffee is merely a vessel, a way for us to share our beliefs and values.
Brand concept notes.
Before thinking about the logo, we wanted to come up with a name, and what that name really means. As told previously, The "3" in T3rminal 3 stood for 3 times of the day where coffee can be a great companion, and also gives a nod to Toronto's international terminal 3, where people and flights from all over the world with different stories and backgrounds all converge in one point in time. We believe in the importance of self-happiness and living life on your own pace, and coffee is our tool to achieve that throughout the day. Being well-travelled, staying curious and hearing stories from around the world, and different people coming together to build a community is our other belief and goal we have.
The Visual Identity
Early sketches and ideas for the Terminal 3 logo.
Our next challenge was the visual identity. How do we create a logo that feels familiar and nostalgic, but at the same time feel clean and modern? We went through a few concepts and iterations, and the concept we decided to work on was having the coffee cup on an airport luggage cart. We took out most of the unessential details and tried to keep it as simple and straightforward as possible, without losing its readability and essence. The font choice is a typewriter style font, containing slight organic imperfections in the outer edges of the letters to give it a human touch, and we spaced out the letters extra to have the overall visual look contemporary. A "3" is drawn inside the coffee cup, hinting it as the latte art.
Perception & Touch
Packaging was our next target to tackle. We reviewed all of the other coffee bags in the market and we asked ourselves, what do they have in common? There were two major things we have flagged out from our analysis: majority of the bags have the coffee bean information printed on a sticker label then applied onto the bag, and most of the coffee bags on the market had a glossy smooth finish. We wanted to be different.
How do we deviate from using a sticker label to display our bean information and at the same time extend our brand concept even more? The solution was simple, we decided to have our bean information printed on an exterior card attached to the coffee bag. As a brand that ties heavily into travelling, we looked into vintage luggages and luggage tags, and it was only fitting to have that exterior card design to resemble the old style luggage tags. Our coffee bean bags are the luggages.
Early designs of the packaging and inspiration.
Analyzing the old luggage tags design, we noticed that for the specific luggage numbers, they were stamped on with red ink by hand. We wanted to push the concept and play with that idea, so we decided to execute our roasting dates the same way luggage numbers were done back in the day, hand stamped.
Next was the sense of touch. Most of the bags on the market have a smooth and glossy finish, and we wanted to be different and unique. How a product feels in hand is such an overlooked aspect, but makes a big difference. The impact it has on a consumer when the product feels unique is enormous; it can really elevate their interest and perception of the product. We wanted our product to feel different than others when held in hand, so we opted in to have our coffee bean bag finish be matte with a rougher paper texture. To play off of the paper texture without making the product feel cheap, we made the overall design to be minimal with a lot of white space; only our logo and website is printed on the bag, no other aesthetic design elements are included whatsoever.
Evolving Through Time
One of the things we learned along the way is that the brand you have conceptualized and designed can slightly evolve as time goes by; your community slowly dictates what stands out from your brand, and what they truly gravitate towards. An interesting result we noticed from the past year and a half of business was that most of our customers didn't connect with the coffee cup on luggage cart logo as much as they did with the "3" with underline visual.
The "3" sub-logo, taken from the full logo in the word T3rminal 3.
We initially incorporated this single 3 visual only on the backside of our takeout cups, but eventually we started to see most of our customers' photos with our coffee cups had that 3 displaying instead of the full logo. But it all made sense to us: simplicity breeds memorableness. We then decided to incorporate this sub-logo more often, starting with our merchandise.
Another thing we learned along the way was how others perceive the brand when they see the logo or hear the name. In the initial concept phase, we concluded with the ideas of self care and happiness, and our passion for travelling and staying curious. But what we eventually understood was that the concept of artisanship and the dedication to perfecting one's craft was what our customers felt the most. This wasn't told directly to them, nor is it displayed on our website, but it was felt through our behaviour, our actions, and the end result of our products. It was something we couldn't even hide, and that was another important lesson we've learned: brand perception goes beyond what you say, it's also who you are authentically. What one says and their actions need to be aligned. That creates the full perception of a brand.
As we continue to build and nurture T3rminal 3, more insights will be gained that will dictate how we continue to grow the brand. The balancing act of staying consistent (brand visual and tone) but at the same time being agile (making changes that stay on brand yet further elevates it) is a constant challenge brand managers and designers will face. It's a tough yet interesting journey, and we hope our story can and will continue to inspire.