Responses by Owen Phillips-Walmsley and Victoria Phillips-Walmsley, cofounders, Oat Studio.
Background: We created a compelling brand identity for Honest Grind Coffee, a socially responsible, artisanal coffee roasting company based in Camden, North London. Not only does Honest Grind Coffee roast exceptional coffee, but it also provides vulnerable young individuals in London with tailored training and industry-standard skills through its employability program. The brand needed to resonate with both coffee connoisseurs and the young people who would be working within it and sporting the logo. All the designs we suggested had to appeal to a design-conscious coffee audience and also work on merchandise to be worn by staff members, so that they could feel a sense of belonging and pride.
We collaborated closely with the Camden Council team, from the initial stages of naming to the comprehensive launch strategy. The project encompassed various aspects, including packaging design, web design, on-site graphics and branded merchandise.
Design thinking: Our main goal was to create a brand that would stand out in a saturated market and exude quality. Upon further exploration, customers would discover the brand’s compelling story and understand how their purchase directly supports young people in their journey to meaningful employment. Aesthetically, we were keen to avoid the stereotypical “soft” feel you might expect for this type of enterprise. Choosing an appropriate name was crucial to convey both a lifestyle product and the social impact of the brand. The result—“Honest Grind”—references the dedication and resilience of young people and alludes to the coffee-grinding process.
Challenges: Making a decision on the final shortlist during the naming process was tricky, but thankfully the Camden team were great to work with. Nailing the name down helped us make decisions on how the brand should look and feel.
New lessons: We were not previously aware of the difficulties some young people are facing and how this affects them getting into the world of work. We learned a lot about what can be done to support getting young people into employment. Seeing the firsthand impact the team at Honest Grind Coffee has on the lives of young Londoners was huge.
Also, through working with the roasters, we picked up all the terminology for coffee production. This really helped with the branding process.
Visual influences: Influenced by site visits to the roastery with its sparse, factory-like setting, we aimed to create a strong yet simple visual language, avoiding any fussiness. The solitary coffee roaster in the vast white industrial space became the inspiration for the logo and supporting graphic style. Using basic geometric shapes, we crafted a minimal representation of the roastery, resulting in a distinct icon incorporating the brand’s abbreviated letters. A playful, punchy pattern inspired by factory-building shapes was created and applied to coffee pouches, murals and mailer boxes.
It was important that we designed some of the brand applications so that they could be applied by hand, such as ink-stamped logos for paper cups and individual stickers for packaging. This helps keep production costs down, creates an artisanal handmade feel and, most importantly, lets individuals of all abilities contribute, as many of the young people working at Honest Grind are handling multiple issues that have been barriers to education or work, such as lack of concentration or self-esteem. From entry, there are many option for progression throughout the roastery, from barista training to learning the highly skilled trade of coffee roasting.
Favorite details: On our regular visits to the roastery, seeing the younger workers wearing the caps and T-shirts with pride is great. We wanted them to want to wear the clothing more as a streetwear brand, rather than just a uniform, and feel that they’re part of something bigger. A lot of this is down to the great staff at Honest Grind Coffee, who make the place a fun and welcoming space.
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