How Pearlfisher Future-Proofed Intelligentsia

by Casha Doemland on 05/06/2019 | 3 Minute Read

Founded in 1995 by Doug Zell and Emily Mange, Intelligentsia was their solution to great tasting, freshly roasted coffee that San Francisco was sorely missing. Eventually, they'd relocate to Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood where they would hone their craft, roast their coffee in-store and create a community that would blossom across the nation over the next two decades. 

Now, twenty-two years later they've teamed up with Pearlfisher's New York studio to revamp their identity and create a fresh new set of packaging that would match Intelligentsia's high-quality coffees, while also helping the company expand effortlessly in the years to come.

To discover how they future-proofed the brand, we spoke with Matt Sia, associate director at Pearlfisher.

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How did you future-proof Intelligentsia’s brand expression and product appeal?

To future proof Intelligentsia’s brand expression, we optimized the brand identity and defined a striking, more simplified and meaningful portfolio. Increasingly, consumers are asking for more transparency from brands on their mission and their process, which our new designs help to bring front and center. Crafting the details and building in elements for discovery allowed us to heighten the brand’s overall look and feel and enhance the story for each special offering. 

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What’s the significance behind the wings and the eye of the Intelligentsia logo?

The eye of the winged logo, which is stylized within a cup of coffee looking up to the star positioned above, represents the idea of illuminating coffee. The combination of these elements reference Intelligentsia’s passion for teaching people about coffee, along with the importance of value and care to give their consumers an enjoyable experience.

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What’s the inspiration behind the images on the side of the pouches? Are they influenced by the coffees themselves?

The graphics on the sides of the holiday and limited edition bags were created to help support the brand experience through more emotive illustration and bold, sophisticated color. Each of the images is a moment of exploration, illustrating the season or occasion. For example, the graphic texture and patterns on Persephone were created to show the convergence of seasons old and new – representing a fresh start for spring. The bag material for Borealis was chosen to create a textural experience. When picked up and shifted from side to side, the iridescent quality of the pack resembles the northern lights.

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How did you stay true to Intelligentsia’s brand story through the new set of packaging?

What’s special about Intelligentsia is that they are committed to direct trade, enabling them to have stronger, more meaningful relationships with their farmers. The brand is built on ethical practices and constitutional processes, which was essential to represent through the design expression and communication through design. We stayed true to this by keeping things refined, honest and by giving priority to the details that represent their commitment to quality.

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Designing for a well-known coffee brand, how vital is coffee to your daily routine?

I didn't use to be a regular coffee drinker! I would have a cup from time to time if I needed a pick-me-up, but it was less of a ritual for me. I felt like the coffee industry, in general, was a bit pretentious and intimidating when it came to finding something I'd like.

It wasn't until this product with Intelligentsia that I learned how coffee itself is designed to have perfect depth and flavor without relying on additives. I took to the way that Intelligenstia approached the coffee experience in a much more personal way. It's given me a much fuller understanding and appreciation for coffee – from the story and the ritual, to being able to tell what delicious, balanced coffee tastes like.

Now, I'm not sure whether to thank them or blame them for my daily coffee routine.

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