The truth is, this is not the first time that the Sample Coffee brand has been revamped. Since the first shop opened in 2011, there have been at least 3 substantial image shifts. They all happened in a low-key and responding to the needs at each moment, making the most of the tools and resources available at the time.
As a celebration of this journey, we want to show you the journey of Sample Coffee’s branding milestones and ell you a bit of the story behind each of them.
Before we start, you may be wondering where “Sample” came from…
Back in the day when Reuben was working for the emerging specialty coffee roasters in Sydney, it wasn’t that common that a shop offered different farms and countries all at the same time. The vision of his dream shop was one where customers could easily choose, learn about and taste - read sample - coffees from very diverse regions. All in a fun, friendly and relaxed atmosphere and at affordable prices that still honored everyone involved in the process.
And that’s how Sample Coffee was born.
Chapter 1: Simple beginnings
Reuben opened the very first Sample Coffee espresso bar in Surry Hills in 2011. He was able to do it in a humble budget thanks to the collective effort of friends and family, who kindly contributed with their diverse skills. Graphic design and branding, as you can imagine, were done in-house.
Reuben himself sourced and chose the font “because it looked clean, bold and nice” and spent hours hand-drawing his vision of the logo: a sort of coffee bean/plant that would be polished up and turned digital with the help of his friend Matti.
There are still some bits and pieces that reminisce to the first era of Sample Coffee’s branding. For example, the Sample Coffee stencil around the Surry Hills shop doors and the coffee bean/plant steel sign on the external facade.
A short time after starting the trade he felt that the Pacemaker coffee blend needed its very own illustration to better convey the spirit of the product. Reuben’s cousin Jack produced the bold illustration of what the blend was: the fuel that kept our hearts pumping, a coffee that kept us alive day after day.
Chapter 2: The Pacemaker era
Around 2012-13 we started roasting and serving only our own coffees and this needed to be communicated and incorporated into the branding. This is how the new stamp-like logo came up, designed by friend and letterer Carla Hackett.
She also created the different country hand-drawn lettering for the newly adopted retail coffee bag labels. The colour-coded sticker solution was a response to the rapid growth, which demanded more and more bags of, at least, 4 different origins every week. It was playful, easy to identify and could be manipulated in-house by our small team to match every different farm and country. The new design not only was more informative but also looked attractive on the shelf and made our operations way more efficient (rather than hand-writing and hand-stamping every single bag!).
The old Pacemaker illustration evolved into a more simple but still meaningful design: the now-classic heart and cup. The clarity of the message and the boldness of its image was something that everybody learned to love. It slowly crept into t-shirts, stationary, etc. to eventually become the main logo for Sample Coffee.
Chapter 3: Polishing things up
Towards the end of 2014, we found our new and very own roasting home at the Precinct 75 in St Peters. By this time, the heart and cup logo was here to stay as a strong symbol of the company. However, this new stage was asking for a cleaner, more minimalistic and coordinated image overall.
The old stamp made way for the sans-serif, stacked wordmark. Rolling out the font onto the website, merchandise and packaging would help to bring coherence within the different company outlets. With the help of Simon, friend, IT-connoisseur, designer and co-founder of the Brew Crew online subscription program together with Reuben, all these details were put in place.
A company which highly contributed to the Sample artwork throughout this era is the local Aisle6ix. You may remember the illustrations for the Cherrypicker and Toucan Party blends and t-shirts. Their talent, skills and good vibes were just perfect to translate our thoughts into fun, memorable illustrations.
Chapter 4: From little things. Capturing the spirit of Sample.
By the end of 2018, Sample was looking like a grown-up. In a blink of an eye, the company went from 2 employees to about 15 and from serving other’s coffees to roast and supply its own around Australia. We officially partnered up with global programs like World Coffee Research, and got certified as a B Corporation. It all was feeling very real: we were a proper business!
Reuben felt that the business’ image needed to be taken seriously, making it a true storyteller of what Sample is about. Brand Strategist Andy Ginger distilled the spirit of Reuben, Sample Coffee and how the business relates to the world. Designers Electric+Analog came up with the logo, colours and typography that contained the essence.
Honestly, the process of letting go of the old was scary - we so much loved our good old heart and cup! But we knew that this new direction was true to our guts, and represented something very present in Sample Coffee: simplicity, the nature and open-air and the power of small acts. Again, Aisle6ix illustrations in our merchandise helped us feel more confident about the change.
This is the new Sample - playful, simple, conscious. Was it ever different?