Brand design studio Without has created the identity for speciality coffee start-up Social Impact Coffee, with a logomark that references its unique business model.
Social Impact Coffee is a Community Interest Company (CIC), which is a type of limited company that exists to benefit the community rather than private shareholders. CIC’s can give large profits away without being a charity and are “fully regulated”, says Social Impact Coffee’s co-founder Adrian Evans.
Social Impact Coffee will be sold directly to businesses, which will provide the coffee their offices. Though it is a B2B brand, Social Impact Coffee will ultimately be encountered by its clients’ employees.
Without co-founder and creative director Roly Grant explains that a key aspect of the brief was “striking a balance between doing something different and disruptive but also co-existing in a corporate business and coffee space”. Grant says it would be easy to go down a “radical” design route, but creating a brand that is “too loud” could risk its longevity. Without also wanted to avoid “greenwashing tropes”, such as stock imagery of leaves and “hands cupping coffee beans”, says Grant.
Using the company’s business model as a blueprint, Without sought to create a logo that would help explain what Social Impact Coffee does and allow it to “build equity in its own language”.
Its logo is built around the percentage symbol, with bespoke icons that sit on a 65-degree angle to reference the fact that Social Impact Coffee donates 65% of its profits to good causes. While most CIC’S support one charity or purpose, Social Impact Coffee lets prospective clients decide where the profits go, says Evans. He adds that this seeks to “give clients a voice” as they can look to their own communities and decide “what the biggest challenges are for planet and people in that area”.
Since clients can buy into the company, Without found a way to bring them into the branding, designing flexible icons that can represent them. The flexible icons are “a clue to how the brand can grow”, says Grant.
The symbols also replace letters in some of the brand’s copy. Originally, Grant thought this would “get in the way” but decided it helps to “catch your eye” and get the brand message across without compromising on legibility.
The “historic graphic design benchmark” for this type of brand is Helvetica, which became overused in the 70s and 90s, according to Grant. Without opted to use Matter Regular from Displaay Foundry, which Grant says “has clarity without feeling utilitarian”.
Evans believes that most high-end coffee brands on the market have a “masculine feel”, so he wanted this brand to be slightly more feminine and “as democratic as possible” in terms of its colour palette. Grant adds that Without was conscious of avoiding feminine clichés, such as “pastel colours”.
The studio also considered a “tear down the system route”, which Grant describes as “very colourful with street-like neon graphics”. Ultimately, it decided against this and went for a “tonal world” of matte black, grey and off-white to complete the “stripped back, simple and modest” look and feel of the brand, says Grant. The palette is designed to work in different environments and avoid being too obtrusive in the professional spaces that it will live in.
Without also helped to devise Social Impact Coffee’s packaging system. Coffee sent within the M25 is delivered in 10kg buckets. Outside of the M25, the coffee is sent out with carbon neutral delivery in smaller reusable smaller containers. Both types can be sent back to the roastery when empty, meaning there is “no additional packaging required”, says Evans.
“As designers we always want to make a difference and we’re always looking for companies who are doing things differently and making life better,” says Grant. He adds: “Big businesses with power can use this product to enlighten their teams and feel more engaged with where they work as well as the community around them.”