Alter’s identity for Prospect reinterprets “the great legacy of American typographic branding”
Prospect is a family-owned speciality coffee roasting and retail company based in Ventura, California. Established in 2014 by two brothers, Blake and Derek Ulrich, they take an intentionally straightforward approach to sourcing their coffee, often partnering with small farms who pay a premium for coffee and reinvest into their land and neighbouring communities. They tackle roasting from a similar perspective, by paying close attention to the planting, harvesting, sorting and processing that occurs at the front end of the supply chain, they’re able to articulate the characteristics of each coffee and honour the work that precedes the final product.
Across the Pacific Ocean, Melbourne-based design studio Alter took on the challenge of developing Prospect’s visual identity, packaging and merchandise. Aiming to pay tribute to “the great legacy of American typographic branding” due to Prospect’s localised ethos, Alter’s solution is delightfully friendly and packed with unpredictable character. “The brand references we had in mind mostly run through the 50s, 60s and 70s,” Alter tells us, before explaining how “it used to be really long way to Australia, but US visual language really embedded itself here and, like many countries, we took what we liked and bent it to suit our own myths.”
The primary typographic choice of Commercial Type’s Marr Sans makes the identity distinctly American at its core and as Alter adds, “conjures a little of the personality you’d expect from Cooper but doesn’t concede dignity in the process.” It’s the plethora of illustrations and accompanying typefaces that personify Alter’s alternate take on American design folklore, with their sporadic yet carefully considered pairings adding layer upon layer of character to the already charming typographic approach.
Through the removal of any unnecessary details, Alter designed Prospect’s coffee bags to be easy to read from the shelf behind the counter in cafés, clarifying that they’re not intended for the supermarket where they’d be easier to pick up and read. “We removed just about all the detail, and the remaining information is really simple, just the title and a few blend qualities,” they explain, “the simplicity of the packaging gave us a solid foundation with room for illustration to relax the character further. Business at the front, party at the back.” Colours throughout the identity continue the relaxed, Californian tone of the typography and illustration, creating an aesthetic that’s equally calm, beautiful and contemporary.
“For Alter, working on American brands is an opportunity to distil elements we love,” the Australian studio concludes, “so we were hoping to create something of that quality and deliver an identity for Prospect with a sense of optimism around the adventure of growing a business, the idea of servicing a local community with a friendly smile, and building something bigger over time.”
Typeface: Marr Sans by Commercial Type