Coffee Bag Design Series explores the specialty coffee brands with unique designs that stand out and fire the imagination. This week, we spoke to Methodical Coffee about how they use packaging to recreate the experience of being in one of their coffee shops.
When Marco Suarez used to visit friends and family in Greenville, he was struck by the city’s lack of modern coffee shops.
Living in Atlanta, he had become accustomed to seeing one on virtually every corner; so when he made the two-hour drive over to Greenville and found there were none, he knew that, sooner or later, something had to be done about it.
Luckily for Greenville, this realisation and what Marco calls “an entrepreneurial itch” emerged at around the same time.
Before long, he’d put out feelers to his friend Will about the possibility of opening a new coffee shop in the city. It just so happened that, as well as a background in coffee, Will had a similar itch.
“I texted Will out of the blue one day,” Marco tells me, “and said, ‘Hey man, do you want to try to open a coffee shop?’ He was also trying to figure out what to do, so his response was ‘Sure’”.
The two met and, after bringing in a third member, David, they started brainstorming about how the coffee shop should look. However, after sketching out a concept, they realised they would need some additional capital to get things off the ground.
“We all put our savings in the pot, and even after a loan from family, still had a fair amount to raise,” Marco says. “In the end, our landlord stepped in and agreed to finance our build-out, which he would put into the cost of our lease. That was how we were able to open. It was pretty spectacular.
“Obviously, it was a huge risk on the landlord’s part. But he was the only one who believed in what we were doing and saw the vision we were trying to cast.”
With the money behind them, Marco, Will, and David launched the first Methodical Coffee location.
Recreating emotional experience
From the very beginning, the goal was to build Methodical on three fundamental pillars: product, experience, and customer service.
This meant that not only did the coffee have to be high quality, but the way it was served and the emotional response of the customer also had to be exceptional.
While Marco and the team had gone a long way to achieving these three pillars in the coffee shop itself, the challenge was how to replicate it once they’d started roasting their own beans.
“About a year into the business, we started investigating roasting,” Marco explains. “We bought a roaster and a space, and Will went away to do some training.
“When we started selling the coffee, we looked at ways we could use the visuals of the packaging to communicate the type of experience we wanted people to feel.
“The design of the shop is very focused on the aesthetic. It’s not necessarily about our brand being front and centre, it’s about the thing itself, the intangible value. So, with our whole bean product, I wanted to take the emotional experience someone has when they come to our café and try to figure out how they could bring that into their homes.”
Marco commissioned a local artist friend to work on some illustrations with a brief to create something that would stand out on shelves and people would be proud to display on their countertops. He also wanted to get away from anything “digital-looking”, such as solid block colours.
The result is a striking, hand-drawn floral design that not only makes for great coffee packaging, but stands as a work of art in its own right.
Blues, lilacs, greens, and a soft orange all come together in a watercolour-like print, while a white hexagon in the middle of the bag showcases information on roast date and flavour notes.
The flower design itself is inspired by plants local to the region. Clovers, for example, can be found on the lawns of many Greenville houses.
This resonated with customers so much that plans to change up the design every few years were quickly shelved.
“We decided to keep it,” Marco says. “There have been some tweaks to make fulfillment easier with how we place information on the bag. But what you see is basically the original design.”
One of the things that sets Methodical aside from other coffee brands is they don’t try to hard sell their coffee to you – yet you still feel compelled to buy a bag.
Although it may seem like random forces are at play, this is actually a carefully devised strategy in which branding serves a secondary purpose, rather than being front and centre. This is true also of their merchandise, from their t-shirts to their tote bags.
“Our brand always comes second to a good-quality product,” Marco says. “I never wanted to be a hollow brand, where it’s beautiful, but the stuff is crap.
“I wanted to be a brand that resonates with people and then we exceed people’s expectations with the quality of the product.”
He goes on to explain that when approaching a coffee brand that he’s unfamiliar with, he’ll ask himself several questions to determine exactly what he’s looking at.
“If I’m in a grocery store and I see a coffee I’ve never seen before, I’m looking to see what type of business it is.
“Is it a business that stands behind its product and offers a good experience? Is it someone who is very brand and marketing focused, but maybe without the coffee quality? Or is it someone who relies very heavily on the quality of the product, but is missing the experience side?
“It’s tough to nail all three [product, experience, and branding], especially when you’re dealing with grocery store shelves and the sizes they dictate.
“But if you don’t have a quality product you’re not going to make up for it with the branding or experience alone.”
Did you enjoy this edition of The Coffee Bag Design Series? Next week, we’ll be speaking to UK-based roaster Bean Shot Coffee.