We make no attempt to hide the fact that we're Verve merch fanboys. The vintage V grid tees (like a lost design from The Venture Bros.), the everyday swag hats, the skate decks, the bear camping mug…our friends and partners in Santa Cruz certainly have a signature look, a kind of NorCal coffee skate/surf casual, if you will. Turns out that look is managed by a guy with some serious surf pedigree: Verve's Head of Creative is a young graphic designer named Kevin Tudball, who worked for the legendary O'Neill surf brand before getting into the coffee game. We sat down with him (digitally) to pick his brain on what sounds like a pretty dreamy gig: full-time designer, illustrator, and brand manager for a growing specialty coffee company.
Your title at Verve is Head of Creative – what does your day-to-day look like?
My job at Verve encompasses everything from designing apparel and merchandise to directing the overall brand. One day I'm hand drawing t-shirt and info graphics, the next I'm creating marketing collateral to launch new coffees. I work with my team to ensure that Verve has a unique and cohesive voice on the web and in our stores. My favorite days start with a coffee cupping and collaborating with my team, and end with a lot of drawing.
What's your background? How'd you get involved with coffee and Verve?
I got my degree in graphic arts from The University of Michigan in 2006. Soon after that I moved to California to work for Frog Design Inc. in San Francisco. Two years later I moved to Southern California to work for O'Neill Clothing. During my time with O’Neill I took a trip to Santa Cruz and tried Verve for the first time. This wasn't my first specialty coffee experience, but there was something different about Verve. The whole experience was fun and engaging. I was immediately hooked. After I left my job with O’Neill I did some traveling in Australia and grew increasingly excited about coffee culture and decided to move to Santa Cruz to start making coffee. I worked for a Verve wholesale account and a year later I applied at Verve. I showed up prepared to interview for a barista position, but the guys had a different vision for me and offered me a dual role as both barista and designer. Two years later I’m Head of Creative and helping Ryan O'Donovan and Colby Barr build their brand! The whole experience has been awesome.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
Most of my inspiration comes from artists involved in the skate and surf scene. Brands like Volcom, Element and RVCA have always made contemporary artists and illustrators a big part of their brands. There is a big connection between Verve and active lifestyle, so I think it's only fitting to draw from that aesthetic. People like Emil Kozak, Michael Sieben, and Travis Millard have not only inspired me, but have even given me guidance at times. And being in California, surrounded by amazing cities and nature certainly doesn't hurt.
Your first Verve product was the pirate shirt – can you tell us the story behind that?
Not only was it my first product, I designed it on my first day! I walked into the office and the guys were working on a new shirt for their store opening. They wanted to send it to print that day, but decided to let me take a stab at it. Since I had to move quick I dove into my sketchbooks and paintings and found one that I had made when I was living in Southern California. I had done a series of sailors and pirates, but this one in particular resembled Santa Cruz surf legend Jack O’Neill. While I never intended it to be him, I knew it would resonate with the community here.
Your camp mug is one of our favorite products this summer – what's next?
Thanks! Glad you like it. We wanted to make a camp mug for coffee lovers. Most camp mugs are too large to use with an AeroPress, which is one of our favorite portable brewers. So we sized our camp mug to work with the AeroPress perfectly. The California Grizzly represents what summer is all about: getting out and exploring everything around you…wherever you live.
Verve has a lot on the horizon with our new roastery and retail space opening in LA this next year. I’ll be creating plenty of new merchandise with that same California spirit. All I can tell you now is that I have some interesting, fun projects on my desk that you’ll see in that new space.