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How Verve Coffee’s New Design Simplifies their System

by Theresa Christine Johnson on 10/25/2017 | 8 Minute Read

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It’s a refreshing new look for Verve Coffee Roasters and a bright way to start the day for any coffee drinker. Colony redesigned the the coffee company to help highlight their commitment to providing the finest coffee grounds around, so we spoke with them more about making simplicity approachable, breathing life into a brand without alienating current customers, and more.

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Walk us through the design process that you went through for this project.

Colony: Back in 2007, Verve founders Ryan and Colby built and opened their first cafe on 41st Avenue in Santa Cruz, California. It was almost a decade later when they came to us looking to better capture the story and ethos of their brand’s evolution.

We take a really collaborative approach to how we work with our clients, so we spent a good amount of time with the Verve team in Santa Cruz. That way, we could get a solid feel for their hometown and the environmental and cultural influences that inspire them. It’s important to us to develop relationships with our clients and their customers, because it not only gives us a window into who’s driving the brand, but it also makes the process a better experience for both sides.

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Once we fully understood the story behind the brand, where they currently stood in the competitive landscape, and where they ultimately wanted to go, we jumped right in with design concepts. We worked to create a communication strategy and color palette that felt true to the brand, while at the same time building a visual language that was purposeful and easy to understand. We then fleshed out a graphical language across their packaging system, and tightened up the brand touchpoints from in-store to web.

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What was one of the biggest goals you set out to achieve with Verve Coffee Roasters packaging and how did you accomplish it?

Colony: At our studio, our goals are always rooted in approachable simplicity. Our style is to make it as easy as possible for customers to understand and relate to a brand or product. For Verve, the biggest goal was to create a simplified packaging system that stays true to the brand’s story and its people, while at the same time communicating its dedication to quality and consistency. We accomplished this by using color, materials, purposeful copy and a simplified iconic labeling system.

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Expand a little more on the design elements you chose to highlight the brand’s commitment to quality.

Colony: Verve’s commitment to excellence extends beyond just their coffee. We all agreed that using a compostable bag was right for their brand, so we decided that a Biotr?® bag would best represent their ethos. The color palette is clean and bright, and was informed by the brand’s geographical environment in Santa Cruz—the green is from the surrounding treelines, the blue is from the coastline, and the orange and yellows come from the sun. Even the off-whites are pulled from the hazy skies and fog that roll into Santa Cruz in the mornings. It was a bold and dramatic shift from the heavier color palette they were using before.

Beyond the color palette and materials, there are key graphical elements on the product that help share the story of the brand’s commitment to excellence. On one side of the bag is a custom emblem and call out to Farmlevel—Verve’s direct trade practice. This initiative is Verve’s commitment to exceed fair trade minimums every time—rewarding farmers for their dedication to producing the highest quality of coffee.

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The Farmlevel story not only lives on the product, but has evolved into an entire sub-brand. We created custom Farmlevel bags, tasting cards, as well as a visual magazine that uses original photography from the founders during their travels abroad sourcing coffee.  

On the other side of the bag, we developed a clear labeling system for their complex library of coffee. We simplified it to a two-tier system that’s purposeful, easy to understand, and intended to highlight the coffee’s origin and flavor profile.

What was the most challenging part of this project?

Colony: The refreshed packaging had to breathe life into the brand while incorporating its identity as a Santa Cruz coffee roaster with a passion for the highest quality coffees. Verve already had a large customer-base, so our rebrand had to show their evolution without alienating their current audience. We were also under an extremely tight deadline, so prioritization and communication were key to the success of the project.

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If you could pick one aspect of the finished design that you like the most or feel especially proud of, what would it be and why?

Colony: We are proud that the strategy we developed for Verve is clearly communicated through every touchpoint of the brand. We talk a lot about the packaging, but each brand expression is representative of who they are—from the website to the merchandise to the feeling you get when you enter a store. Verve continues to be such an inspiring client to work with, and we are proud to continue helping them share their story.

Share one lesson that you learned while developing the finished product.

Colony: Definitely that printing on compostable bags is a challenge. With new materials, you have to be more creative with design techniques that you use. The limited options for printing on Biotr?® bags inspired us to highlight things in a different way. Overall, we are happy with the final product. It was well-received by the Verve team and their customers, and it’s been really wonderful to see them keep growing.

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