Before & After: Grind Espresso Spirit

by Elizabeth Freeman on 04/07/2016 | 4 Minute Read

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Grind Espresso Spirit was this week awarded a Silver for packaging design at the San Francisco World Spirits competition, which is wonderful news of course for agency and client.  Yet perhaps the more engaging story is just how deeply Vault49 embedded our client within our internal design and crafting process, and how that built a foundation for success many months before the product hit the shelves.

Our client approached Vault49 with an award-winning liquid, originally released in 2002, and the primary brief was to re-position and re-design Grind to make it more relevant to consumers today.  However there was also a secondary – and equally essential – objective, that was to achieve senior client buy-in.  We needed to show that our packaging solution would have a grounding in product-relevant authenticity, and have the substance to support an off-pack brand world and drive consumer-focused stories.  

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Grind consumers will regard their coffee similar to a cocktail: they want it to be perfectly crafted to order, prepared by an expert, and containing authentic, quality ingredients. We defined the concept as ‘coffee culture meets cocktail culture’.

To get our client excited and bought into our approach we invited them into our studio and put them in the middle of a world of chalk-dust, hand-crafted typography, gold leaf, and creative ‘mistakes’. 

The ‘look and feel’ shared visual cues between bars and coffee shops. Vintage coffee shop window signs and bar mirrors informed the wordmark and brand icon, while chalkboard art and sign painting informed the bold typographic and illustrative styling.  To retain an authentic and crafted feel we created the label art on a grand scale using chalkboard.  

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Exciting and unpredictable creative processes are often hidden from clients by agencies who are concerned either that they are weak in this area, or that the practice is too unpredictable.  However, by laying our process bare we were able to achieve such excitement and senior client buy-in for the re-launch that it made the rest of the design process and sign-off a relative breeze.  Our client saw the potential, and as a result also drove Vault49 to deliver bigger and better.

Of course it takes careful management of client expectations for an agency to thrive in such a scenario, but if done well there is so much more to be gained by allowing clients to hang out and interact ‘back stage’.

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This doesn’t work for every agency.  Looking behind the curtain has to reveal a genuinely experimental and creative process - not smoke and mirrors - but if you have a talented team crafting great brand stories and beautiful art, there is little to lose and so much to gain.  Our clients love to see the humanity of our team and our work, and we’re confident that same humanity is much more likely to be evident to consumers as a result.

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GRIND: The making of from vault49 on Vimeo.

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Written by: Jonathan Kenyon 

As co­founder and Executive Creative Director of Vault49, Jonathan Kenyon directs the agency’s strategic direction and creative health while also remaining actively involved in core projects. With creative origins as an internationally recognized street artist, Jonathan has built on this unique background with 15 years of experience in branding and communications, primarily derived from building Vault49 from the brainchild of two ambitious artists into the internationally recognized and commercially successful agency it is today. With a deep commitment to cultural diversity, crafted process, and efficient brand strategy, Jonathan dedicates his time applying this perspective to Vault49’s business needs and clients such as Samsung, Diageo, Vodafone, Kiehl’s, Baileys, and Pepsi.

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