The Coffee Design series on Sprudge searches near and far for the coolest nodes of coffee packaging art. This week we shine a spotlight on the branding refresh of North Atlanta coffee shop and roaster Valor Coffee, where the focus is on coffee quality, charitable giving, and engaging aesthetics courtesy of in-house design.
As told to Sprudge by Riley Westbook.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed.
Tell us about Valor Coffee.
Valor ultimately exists to match the top 1% of coffee quality with the top 1% of service and guest experience. We’ve seen so many times throughout our careers that some of the places offering the best coffee ultimately put guest experience on the back-burner. We’re an organization founded on the goal of giving guests, partners, and employees an uplifting experience through care and intentionality.
Valor was started by Ethan Rivers, Ross Walters and myself in 2016. We were young (19-year-old) college *quitters* (i.e. dropouts) who had zero cash and zero know-how to build out a cafe, so we ran a Kickstarter for $10,000, put another $10,000 on a credit card, and built out a mobile cart that we used to cater weddings, film sets, and office parties. We did this for a couple years until January 2018 when we landed a permanent-ish pop-up spot in a co-working space in Alpharetta. We subsequently started roasting in July of the same year, renting another roaster’s facility twice a week. We began to really feel connected to the city of Alpharetta and decided to open a permanent location after building some capital through our now-every-day operation. Our doors opened in Downtown Alpharetta in August 2019. Since, we’ve opened a roasting headquarters in the neighboring city of Roswell where we roast our coffees on a Loring S15 Falcon, fulfill all orders, and host our offices. Last month, we signed a lease on our second cafe in Dunwoody (about 11 miles from our first spot), with hopes to be open late 2022.
When did the design refresh debut?
March 21st was the official Day One of the refreshed line. One of the main focuses of this brand refresh was to make our brand elements and collateral more consistent. Lots of our previous design and branding work had really run together, looking clustered and without continuity, so we didn’t want that to happen with the new collateral. The “launch date” moved dozens of times due to production delays because we knew we wanted to release all new merch, packaging, and design elements on the same day while simultaneously removing all old brand elements.
How long did the process take—from vision to final product?
Honestly, it felt like it took an eternity. We are fortunate to have a staff designer (Arielle Zottneck) along with two other excellent designers in our circle (barista Elijah Knapp and my wife, Mikayla Westbrook). Working with an internal team really helped us all feel comfortable to present, critique, and rework tons of ideas. We would take a concept really far, scratch it, then completely start over. Our first brainstorm meeting was at the beginning of February 2021. We landed on our design elements and branding guidelines in September and spent the rest of the time from then to March 21st ironing out the kinks and producing collateral. We ran into several production delays, especially in the process of producing our boxes, that really stretched out our timeline. Luckily we had somewhat accounted for potential delays and knew we could likely afford up to 14 months with our previous packaging inventory, so we made it out just in time.
Tell us about the new design elements!
We moved away from a Logo mark that was sharp and somewhat “cold” to a mark that flows well with soft edges—something more kind, elegant, and refined. We think this is a great testament to the sort of company we want to be. Our icon, the staircase you can find debossed on the side of the box, signifies our desire to give our guests an elevated, uplifting experience. I’ll attach individual files of each below in case you want to throw them in separately.
For the boxes specifically, we wanted to keep things simple and elegant, finding inspiration from many candle and fragrance companies. The label that wraps around the front corner allows us to communicate the most pertinent information on the front (name of coffee and tasting notes) and the extra details on the side (coffee’s story, region/origin, altitude, varieties, processing). We used blank debossing where we could to give subtle touches, such as “coffee” on the front and the Staircase icon on the side next to the label.
Possibly our favorite thing about this new packaging is that we were able to use nine different box colors at a time to signify the menu slot that each coffee fills. We have an additional four colors that will rotate seasonally in place of our seasonal blend—currently Swoon. So 13 colors in total.
What coffees are you all excited about currently?
We always love our staple blend, Freethrow (blue box). It’s chocolatey with subtle fruit, perfect for those who don’t know a lot about specialty OR those who are looking for nuance and interesting notes, and it’s great no matter how you brew it. It’s always on espresso at our cafe.
Our spring seasonal blend, Swoon (lavender box), is an incredible take on a bright blend. It’s composed of a pink bourbon Colombia and a D.R. Congo, and it really brings nice citrus matched with some fun florals. One dollar from every box sold of our seasonal blends is donated to a charitable organization, this season being the Ukrainian Red Cross.
As for single origins, you really can’t go wrong with our black box coffees–these are always premium and higher price point because of their high scores. Currently we are featuring a honey processed gesha from Finca Nueva Granada in Guatemala. It’s truly mind blowing, holding a sparkling body with blue raspberry hard candy notes–it’s around for a very limited time, but sure to be followed by an equally interesting high-end offering.
Ethiopia Worka Sakaro Anaerobic Natural (red box) is a fan favorite right now, featuring clean natural processing with some nice Amaro liqueur-like notes.
Where is your coffee available?
We have quite a few wholesale partners throughout the states, especially in the Southeast. You can also find our coffee online or at any Whole Foods location in the state of Georgia.
What’s next for Valor?
Our next big project is certainly opening our second cafe in the city of Dunwoody. Lots of folks thought we were a little crazy for trailblazing a third-wave shop in the ‘burbs. But after cafe #1 was received so well, it just solidified, in our eyes, that smaller suburban cities need amazing coffee with friendly service as well. Otherwise, we are excited to continue expanding our wholesale partnerships and work with other shops and restaurants.