A big, awesome project for Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.!

The new letterpress labels on the bags!

I was approached earlier this year to assist with a rebrand for Olympia Coffee Roasting Co. This would be a very humbling process, because they had strong if somewhat diverse branding by the very talented designer David White, and their customers are very loyal. But owners Oliver Stormshak and Sam Schroeder really wanted the brand to feel more personal… to maintain some familiarity, while nudging it into a fresh direction. I was intrigued and a little intimidated.

The process of designing a new logo was admittedly challenging. I worked on numerous concepts, some of which I really liked, that just weren’t feeling right to Oliver, who was responsible for guiding the rebrand. We kept plugging away, taking our time to find something that struck at the root of what he wanted to see and feel. After exploring a number of directions, we actually came back around to a typographic treatment I had created for a business card I designed for OCR some time previously, the “to eleven” card. Using the familiar typeface Rosewood, which is a pervasive element in their former brand, it really felt like home ground to Oliver and had the advantage of offering a gentle transition for current customers and staff. Okay…. we were on our way.

The next phase was to design new bag labels that would be letterpressed. Now that we had a very simple typographic logo, the design came together quickly. In some design and engineering sessions with Oliver and Honor Forte (who works for OCR and also designs for the company), the requirements for this ambitious new label came into focus. Honor had the idea to include a tree line illustration on the label. This gave the label a visual nucleus to organize around, and the wavy sunburst logo treatment emerged as a response to the treeline. I’ve always thought of my morning coffee as liquid sunshine in our rather grey place. I wanted to convey this feeling in the label design.

The label also needed to perform some other work besides just sitting on the bag looking pretty. Oliver wanted to provide a take-away piece that could be retained after the bag was empty and recycled. (Hint.) He wanted this detachable piece to contain more thorough information on the coffees than is typical on bag labels. I hit on the idea pretty early to create a perforated label that could be ripped off the bag, and which could be lifted up from the bottom to reveal additional information about the coffee. There is also a modest space available for tasting and brewing notes.

Without laboring readers too much about the ins and outs of the printing, this was a huge project for the press, and required meticulous and exacting control. The labels go through the press four times, so the 8,000 labels required 32,000 impressions. I’ve never mixed so much ink. I’ve never popped so many die-cuts out of their paper frames, I’ve never checked the ink fountain so constantly for just the right delivery of ink. I’ve never riffled through so many stacks of printing looking for errant prints. It was challenging but ultimately a fantastic demonstration of what The Sherwood Press can do.

Click HERE to see a set of photos from the printing production of the labels.

On the shelves at last!

I’m so honored to have had the opportunity to design for my very favorite Olympia product. I feel humbled and grateful for Oliver’s trust and confidence. I just dropped by the downtown store today and saw the bags with the new labels on the shelf for the first time. It’s a satisfying conclusion to a long and fruitful process. THANK YOU OLYMPIA COFFEE ROASTING CO.!!!

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Owner, designer, printer at an historic letterpress printshop

5 thoughts on “A big, awesome project for Olympia Coffee Roasting Co.!

  1. Jamie- seeing the entirety of this project makes even it more impressive. The thought and ingenuity behind your design and production is really lacking in 99% of what passes for design these days. You should be proud, this is a wonderful system that you’ve come up with!

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