13th of April 2018
When one thinks of coffee and design together one can think of many things: the graphics that go into branding a roaster, the interior of a coffee shop or the product design for coffee materials from espresso machines to other brewing supplies. But perhaps design can play a more ubiquitous and essential role in the coffee universe, beyond the visual and the material. The relationship between coffee and design is an intricate one, at times interdependent and other times incompatible yet both hold similar objectives. Ultimately, coffee and design try to inspire, bewilder, transcend its basic functions and maybe, even provoke.
Anyone who loves specialty coffee probably knows that coffee isn’t the only specialty product that has emerged in the last decade or so. As the third wave coffee movement grows, so do movements for other specialty goods and artisanship: there’s high-end butchers, craft breweries, cold-pressed juice, pickle festivals, artisan hot sauces, vintage barber shops, record stores and art-house cinema revivals…the list goes on. There’s a clear tendency to specialize in the craft and artistry of a single product. And whether this is a reaction against the ever-growing globalized market of mass-production or mere nostalgia for a time when local specialty businesses populated our neighbourhoods, the attention and care for detail are evident. That’s when design comes in. Like the cement that holds the specialty industry together, design allows a new generation of artisans to balance, quality and beauty.
And it’s no secret that our generation, who grew-up tech and social media-savvy, take design and presentation very seriously. Coming from a similar artistic perspective, the creative development in coffee is crucial for anyone in today’s industry, where the visual is as important as ever. There’s an overall awareness about design. It’s unifying element between what you’re drinking and the environment that surrounds you.
Any designer would tell you, design could often be a dance between aesthetics and practicality. We could easily apply this to coffee, taste registers and aromas can be beautiful and tickle your senses but as a society, we also use coffee in a practical way. We use coffee to wake up, to socialize, to fuel our work and creative flow… There’s no denying that coffee has a practical use, but like design, it is only when it transcends its practical use and surprises you that makes it so extraordinary.
People in the coffee industry don’t just make great coffee, they create an environment where everything is thought out, carefully catered and curated. Because they know that coffee is so much more than a drink, there’s an atmosphere, a whole world that goes along with it. There are so many feelings that come with having that first espresso in the morning or having that nice mug of drip coffee to sip while you work or having a cortado with a friend or a date. While coffee is always at the epicentre, it is really design that surrounds it with such an environment. At the end of the day, it’s about having an experience and design plays a big role in emphasizing and enhancing it in a palpable and tactile way.