Micro-Interview with Jeremy Teff: Designer Behind Onyx Coffee Lab’s Award-Winning Coffee Packaging
You’ve probably seen the color-coded, embossed coffee bags. They won both the SCA 2021 Coffee Design Awards for both Packaging and Branding.
I wanted to learn how other coffee companies can create compelling packaging and branding, so I reached out to Jeremy with a few questions.
In this brief micro-interview, Jeremy discusses…
- Practical ways to stand out from the competition with packaging
- Behind-the-scenes processes for narrowing down winning designs
- The #1 thing coffee startups need to do with their bag designs
I’m thrilled to introduce Jeremy!
Most coffee packaging is pretty similar. How do you get your clients to stand out?
Oh man, this is a tough one. Packaging is something that I have loved designing for a long time. My goal as a designer is to create a package design that reflects the product inside. Coffee is a sensory experience and we wanted to try and convey that as much as possible.
For Onyx, we chose colors that could reflect the tasting notes of the coffees inside. The outside of the boxes are embossed/debossed as well as coated with a silky smooth aqueous laminate to mimic the finish of some of our coffees.
In the end, we knew that opening our coffee needed to feel like a journey from the time you picked it up at your local cafe or when it was delivered to your door. The key to great packaging is telling the story of what is inside, you can do that through color, materials, print techniques, and design, it all works together to help you stand out.
What was your inspiration for the Onyx Coffee Lab design and visuals?
The updated packaging for Onyx Coffee Lab was inspired by the original Onyx Brand and where and how the brand has developed to date.
When we first began to design the Onyx brand almost a decade ago it was raw, edgy, and pushed boundaries in the coffee industry. We used graphics that had more grit and aggression. We have never lost that love of pushing boundaries, but we have grown up a little in our approach to edgy.
I think if you compare the new packaging to the previous bags and design elements you still can see where we started, we still love the Skull imagery except now it is a bit more subdued and feels toned down. New colors help to soften and broaden the brands reach and appeal to new coffee drinkers.
I like to joke around and say the new packaging and direction is what the Onyx Brand grew up to be.
What did it feel like to win the SCA Design award for 2021?
It was a huge honor for me and Onyx. As a designer, I tend to take awards with a grain of salt. I feel like the SCA Design Awards are a bit different because at their heart they are coffee people and we have always designed the Onyx Brand for Coffee people.
Being voted on by your peers is always a huge honor and when those same peers understand your passion for coffee and then appreciate it enough to award you for it, it makes everything just a tad sweeter.
When you’re looking at a bunch of design options, how do you make focused choices about which ones to go with?
I am probably not the person to ask about design options, haha. I am from the Paul Rand school of thought on design options. I typically give most of my clients 1 option that I feel is the answer to the problem we are trying to solve.
I know one option sounds crazy but hear me out. My process involves a lot of research and communication with a client, lots of questions and conversations happen before any design is ever done. So by the time design starts everyone involved should have a pretty clear understanding of where the project is heading.
Now obviously edits happen along the way but most of the time they are pretty minor and are really made to tweak the initial concept to the final design.
How do you think about the intersection of design and copywriting? Should words or visuals come first?
Always words. For me at least they inspire the visuals.
What’s something most people misunderstand about the coffee packaging design process?
It is a lot of work. Aside from the concept and design process, which can take a long time you have to source materials for bags, boxes, labels, etc. A lot of times you can be working with 3 different printers to create one final product, making sure all of the details and quality is consistent can be tough.
In the case of Onyx, we also wanted our packaging to be eco friendly so we had to search for partners that offered materials that could be recycled or made from recycled materials, this limited the printers we could use and made for some interesting deadlines.
If there’s one thing a coffee startup owner needs to know when they create their coffee packaging, what is it?
Tell your story. Authenticity is everything today and a lot of times you only get one chance to make a first impression.
Hey 👋 I'm Garrett Oden
Freelance Coffee Marketer
I'm a coffee industry native who works with coffee brands around the world to create and execute captivating marketing strategies.
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