The coffee shop has always been one of the great incubators for artist-types. It’s a home base for creative nomads, where those not shackled to desk jobs go to sketch, write, or just ideate into leather-bound notepads, propped up only by a cup of coffee and, depending on your location and era, a pack of cigarettes. With artists having spent so much time inside those hallowed walls, it was inevitable that coffee would seep into their creative consciousnesses. Like one hand drawing another hand drawing that first hand holding a demitasse, coffee has become both the source and subject matter of many an artist’s creative energy. One such expression of this Escherian synergy is Fresh Kaufee, the apparel company from graphic designer/typographer/illustrator extraordinaire Lenworth McIntosh, who prefers, incidentally, to go by Joonbug, or Joon. Like the name implies, Fresh Kaufee draws heavily from its caffeinated muse, and Joonbug infuses coffee into his aesthetic in creative new ways.
Before a recent move to San Francisco, Joonbug was a staple at some of Dallas’ best shops, where he could be found working on his “Good Morning” series: a compilation of daily-released sketches full of 90’s nostalgia—8- and 16-bit video game characters, Dragonball Z, Pokemon, etc.—circumscribed by “good morning to you” penned in his distinct typographical style. If Joon was at a shop, you pretty much knew it was legit. In fact, he can actually be spotted Where’s Waldo-style in a couple Sprudge articles about shops around Dallas (Hint: the articles are about a pop-up and a permanent cafe, both with a name that rhymes with Soundsbooth).
This involvement in the coffee shop culture is apparent throughout the Fresh Kaufee line, where playful concepts and images represent a more reverent artistic credo. On the role coffee plays in his work, Joonbug said, “Coffee feels like a gentleman’s drink. It’s classy and relaxed with the utmost confidence. It wakes the body, so why not adapt it to the soul and awaken the inner creative’s desire to pursue a dream?” Fresh Kaufee finds inspiration in the more than just the Platonic ideal of what coffee can be, but in the physical drink itself. “The color scheme, the earthtones, they all support my overall style and perception of the world,” said Joon.
One of the most noticeable manifestations of this influence is in Fresh Kaufee's packaging. In keeping with the theme, all shirts are sold in brown, eight-ounce coffee bags with size designations of mild, medium, and bold replacing the more typical descriptors of small, medium, and large. And Fresh Kaufee is a self-professed “olfactory brand,” appealing to more than just the visual stream to help enhance the experience. “My graphic design teacher once said it’s best to appeal to as many senses as possible,” Joonbug told me. As with a newly opened bag of coffee beans, recently purchased Fresh Kaufee shirts are meant to be smelled in the bag. It’s not just your mind playing tricks on you; there’s a pleasant coffee aroma emanating from the package. It’s the closest experience to ripping into a new bag of coffee since decaf.
Once unwrapped, the coffee motif continues in the shirt prints themselves. There’s Beanboy, the cloud-riding adolescent crime fighter bringing “caffeinated justice to evil-doers,” drawn in a style reminiscent of early 1900s advertising cartoons. For the cat fancier (looking at you, Sprudge reader), there’s the Premium Blend shirt featuring the monocled Sir Leonard Fluffkins III. And there’s the text-driven Espresso Self shirt, whose simple message succinctly recapitulates Fresh Kaufee’s ethos: a healthy dose of individuality and a dash of coffee.
The entire Fresh Kaufee experience is carefully thought out from start to finish, but beyond the on-point execution, the shirts themselves are just cool as hell. As one who is way too old to be wearing t-shirts as often as I do, I consider myself an expert on the subject, so you can trust me. They’re a subtle way of saying, “yeah I identify with coffee culture, but I don’t have to go shouting it from the rooftops. I likes to keep it cool.” And for all the baristas out there, these shirts also provide the perfect earthy color palette to accentuate the territorial stain of a wild spritz from a renegade espresso stream. Check out more of Joonbug's illustrations on Instagram @freshkaufee.
Zac Cadwalader is a Sprudge.com staff writer based in Dallas. Read more Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.
Photos by Molly DeCoudreaux for Sprudge.com unless otherwise noted.