Moxie Sozo and Corvus Coffee Take Folks On an Exotic, Caffeinated Adventure
by Rudy Sanchez on 12/01/2020 | 5 Minute Read
Corvids, a family of birds that includes ravens, crows, and Corvus, have always fascinated us.
Their striking plumage and intelligence have inspired legends and mythology. Noah sent one out to see if the floodwaters had receded, and superstition holds that if the raven residents of the Tower of London leave, the kingdom could fall. They are highly intelligent and inquisitive, and some researchers believe that they might be the smartest, non-primate animal on the planet. They even do things just for fun, much like us.
They also just so happen to make a fitting mascot for Corvus Coffee, a brand with a mission to provide connoisseurs with new and compelling varieties from around the world while working directly with farmers to create a better supply chain. To expand and bring to life that sense of curious discovery, Corvus founder Phil Goodlaxson enlisted global branding agency Moxie Sozo to reimagine a brand for which coffee, craft, and storytelling are inextricably linked.
“Phil wanted to transport people to different regions. He goes and meets these people [coffee producers] individually," said Evan Faber, CEO and chief strategist at Moxie Sozo. "That's what Phil loves doing. He wanted those meetings and those stories to come to life, almost like a field journal."
But this wasn't just wanderlust or aping the National Geographic experience. "We wanted to create these intimate expressions of a moment, the poetic nature of it. We're bringing the art to it,” Faber explains. “There's this magical, elevated realism. It's not just trying to put a lens on what a place actually is. It's telling the stories of the people in such a way that it makes you feel something rather than just informing.”
The ready-to-drink cold brew cans made with Ethiopian coffee feature bold illustrations by Moxie Sozo designer Qian Liu, and they depict a proud lion perched atop a cliff. On the back, a goat climbing a mound containing traditional textile patterns calls back to one of coffee’s origin myths, where Kaldi the goat herder discovers the plant when he finds his flock dancing after eating some small, bitter berries. Caffeinated goats aside, you're not just swept away to an unfamiliar, faraway land. There is a promise of adventure and excitement on each piece of packaging, and the coffee becomes a prize earned by venturing into the deepest and most remote corners of our blue and green orb.
And if you're the sort of person who reads Tolkien's Lord of the Rings and can spend hours transfixed by the maps contained within, then you might have landed on your new favorite cold brew. Mapping and cartographic elements get highlighted on the cans, combined with regional cues that reinforce the sense of exploration and discovery found on the packaging.
“A lot of the typography ties back to the specific regions and cultures from the coffee source. And that led to a lot of brainstorming that eventually took us to a cartography-inspired aesthetic,” says Silvia Skinner, designer at Moxie Sozo. “We really drew inspiration from map language when choosing some of the primary display fonts. You see it in those old school serifs and flared letterforms. In addition to tying back to cartography, we also brought in some more modern supporting typefaces.”
Like many good epic tales, Moxie Sozo had the challenge of simultaneously depicting all the layers of the story and points-of-time for the coffee contained inside. For instance, coffee from their subscription service comes packaged in a cylinder. On the front of the cylinder, five disks are stacked atop one another, each depicting worlds that are separate but intertwined—and all of which contribute to the unique character of the coffee. Moxie Sozo not only developed a visual language to tell the complex story, but they also dove deep into the coffee’s origins. That same spirit drives Corvus’s founder to immerse himself where they source their near-mythical brews.
“We had to develop a system as we began to build out the disks further. It was determining what things we wanted to touch on, like creating a sense of place, which is the first disk,” Silvia explains.
“For the second disc, we depicted a personal touch—something that was central to the story of the farmers—from a story that Phil had relayed to us,” she adds. “The third disc is made up of patterns and abstract shapes that tie back to the flavor cues of the coffee. The fourth taps into the ancient influence of that culture, and then the last one is always a wild card where we symbolically interpret an especially intriguing part of the back story. So you get a deeper level of immersion as you open up the individual pieces.”
Corvus sells across different channels but wanted to treat coffee subscribers to something unique, and Moxie Sozo’s exquisite packaging tells the rich story of the coffee within while also creating a distinctive encounter only those adventurous enough to explore are worthy of having.
“Just as the digital space provides opportunities to create projects and branded worlds, this rise of the subscription box shouldn't just be about delivering a product to clients, but delivering an experience to clients that they crave,” says Faber. “Brands that embrace engaging design and continue to push this narrative across all channels are the ones that will celebrate and see the biggest lift from their work,” Evan believes.
In Norse mythology, King Odin was also called the “raven-god” due to his pair of avian observers, Huginn and Muninn. The Allfather would dispatch the birds to fly all over the world and return at dinner, telling him everything they saw and learned. Similarly, Corvus traveled all over the coffee world, searching far and wide for an unparalleled flavor, and Moxie Sozo helped retell Corvus’ experience through exciting, layered, and beautifully illustrated packaging.