Double duty: Oat Studio’s brand for Honest Grind Coffee nods to both its product and its community
Honest Grind Coffee is equally passionate about two things – crafting high-quality, artisanal coffee, and elevating the lives of vulnerable young individuals in London with tailored training through their employability programme. Supported by Camden Council’s Integrated Youth Support Service, the roastery reinvests all of its earnings in empowering young people. To highlight both the brand’s coffee and its efforts to carve out a more secure future for its local community, Camden Council turned to their neighbour Oat Studio to design a simple, yet impactful identity.
The very first visits to the roastery, with its ‘sparse, factory-like setting’ helped define a visual direction. The team at Oat Studio began by abstracting a lasting image – that of a solitary coffee roaster, set in the vast industrial space. The image was cleverly decomposed into a simple composition of basic geometric shapes, stacked atop each other, and branded with the acronym ‘HGC.’ The resulting mark is almost always used in the company of punchy, repetitive patterns inspired by the roof of the factories, seen on pouches, murals and packaging. “We wanted it to escape the stereotypical ‘soft’ feel that you might expect for this type of enterprise,” notes Co-founder Owen Phillips-Walmsley. “Our client agreed that the first impression we wanted to make on the consumer was that of a small-batch, artisanal coffee brand, so the simplistic, stripped-back design was fitting for this, adding more character through typography and the graphic patterns.”
Both the choice of typeface – the utilitarian sans serif Gräebenbach – and the predominantly black and white palette lends to the intended ‘un-designed’ feel of the identity. “Gräebenbach borrows details from brush-painted signs, and balances the sharpness and simplicity of the digital design process with the warmth and texture of hand-drawn type,” Co-founder Tori Phillips-Walmsley tells us. “It looked stark enough for the pared-back look, yet added enough character in the small details to convey the artisanal feel.” The light-handed approach meant that the details were ever so important, such as intentionally designing certain aspects of the branding – such as ink-stamped logos and stickers – to be hand-applied. This does many things – it helps cut production costs, adds to the hand-made feel that fuels the brand, and most importantly, “allows individuals of all abilities to contribute, as many of the young people are often handling multiple issues which have been their barriers to education or the workplace, such as lack of concentration or self-esteem,” explains Phillips-Walmsley, of how the design itself furthers the brand’s efforts. “From this point on, there are many options for progression throughout the roastery, from barista training to learning the highly-skilled trade of coffee roasting.”