It was refreshing, exhilarating, and just downright nice to chat with the folks at Denver's Huckleberry Coffee this week. So catchy is their enthusiasm, so deep is their connection to their branding's design, that you just can't help but be swept up in how excited these folks are about where they are as a coffee brand, as expressed through design.
These new bags, launched at the beginning of the year, convey Huckleberry Coffee's “progression, growth, and increased comfort with who we are.” You can say the same about the interview below, one of our favorites in Coffee Design history.
As told to Sprudge by Mark Mann and Koan Goedman.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your company?
We started roasting coffee in 2011, and have since grown into a coffee company with 2 retail cafes, a thriving and growing list of wholesale partners… and it’s all held together by the best damn staff on the planet. Back in the early days, our beers consumed to roasted coffee ratio was about a 1:1, but since then we’ve put our adult pants on and grown the roasting to about 1,500 lbs/wk and it’s available nationwide via our web store and cafe partners.
(FYI, the beer to coffee ratio is no longer 1:1.)
When did the coffee package design debut?
The new bags launched in January 2016. Two years ago, we rebranded our OG kraft bags with fully custom poly stand-up pouches. It was a big step and people loved them! Much to our own surprise, we blew through those 25,000 bags in about two years. We spent most of 2015 designing the new bags and we are so stoked they are now out in people’s hands!
Who designed the package?
As a company, we are all about collaboration, and the bag design was no exception. It started in-house. We (Koan and Mark) knew what elements to carry over from the previous bag, what design additions we wanted to introduce, and what improvements we needed for a production efficiency. Once we reached a point of having a general vision, we handed the design assets over to our homeboys Travis LaDue and Scott Hill at Studio Mast, a design firm in Denver. We love those fellows! They took our thoughts, ideas, and suggestions and translated them into a refined final design.
Please describe the look in your own words.
In a larger sense and to give some context to our thinking, the look of the bag represents Huckleberry’s progression, growth, and increased comfort with who we are. We started with hand-stamped, coffee-stained kraft bags and tags in 2011. For bag v.2, we had the pleasure of working with Mackey Saturday (who has since gone on to redesign the Instagram logo, and now works for Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv), who created our logo and encouraged us to be creative with colors and patterns. That stand-up pouch bag was a huge success! People loved it and our brand has gotten so much traction in faraway markets from it. Starting out with a bang was radical, but it also meant the new bag had to really be a home run; it would have been easy to introduce a bag that was perceived as a step backwards design-wise.
When it came to brainstorming the new bag, we knew we wanted to represent our company values as much as we could. The coffee industry, as a whole, creates a lot of trash, so we wanted to go a more environmentally responsible direction. The Pacific Bag Biotre bag are really the only option out there that hit the mark, so that decision was made for us. We transitioned away from the tall, unusual shape of the stand-up pouches because the flat bottom, more traditional shape made our production run more efficiently and made shipping to all our various partners much easier, regardless of whether it was to our friends at Seventh Flag in Austin, to Whole Foods throughout Colorado or to Methodical Coffee in Greenville.
That being said, we didn’t want to recreate the wheel entirely. We wanted to build on the momentum created two years ago, and pay homage to those beautiful bags. The logo stayed the same (because it’s dope), but we applied it in reverse. We are excited to extend our brand in this small, subtle way. We continued to rely on a heavy pattern, albeit refined and streamlined from previous bags. The new pattern is part pattern illusions and part a nod to the idea that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
We really strive to be an approachable coffee company. Our coffee offerings always have something for everyone, regardless of where they are on their coffee journey. The new bags are an extension of that! We think the look of the new bag does a nice job of inviting people into our brand. It gives them something new to absorb and familiar to hold.
There is always temptation to do something completely different with a redesign, but we are obsessed with classic, timeless styles and positive, approachable attitudes. We hope everyone enjoys the bags as much as we are proud of them.
What coffee information do you share on the package? What's the motivation behind that?
As much as we could, without being overwhelming. On one side of the bag, we share our story. We hope it gives people a sense of who we are and why we do what we do. We hold a deep love for home coffee brewers (coffee nerds with scales and eyeballers with coffee scoops are both welcome with us!), so on the other side of the bag we added basic brew ratios people can start with.
Each bag features a compostable sticker, too. In fact, the stickers are made from recycled stone…which is totally crazy, right? Stone stickers! We might not have hoverboards yet, but we have stone stickers! The stickers share origin and region details, tasting notes, technical coffee information that we all like to see (varietal, processing, etc.) We think the coffee we source is very tasty, and we want to pay homage to as many of the players as possible without inundating our consumers with a ridiculous amount of information.
Where is the bag manufactured?
Just as before, we worked with Pacific Bags from Seattle, WA. They are great and we like working with them. As far as where they’re actually manufactured, we’re pretty sure it’s in Taiwan.
What kind of package is it?
The package is a 12-ounce Biotre bag with a recycled stone sticker and one-way valve.
Is the package recyclable/compostable? Any other pro-environment info about the package you want to share?
After removing the tin tie and one-way valve, this package is fully biodegradable. In case anyone forgets, we threw a little cheeky reminder on the bottom of the bag. Can’t take ourselves too seriously, right? We worked with a Denver sticker company to print a recycled and eco-friendly sticker made from recycled stone. You read that correctly… recycled stone. Also, not entirely related to the bag, but our roasting and production facility are 100% powered by wind, so that’s pretty cool and we’re excited about it.
Coffee Design is a feature series by Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge. Read more Coffee Design here.