Refreshing Public Espresso + Coffee’s Brand

The buzz in the office was palpable when the owners of one of Buffalo’s most exciting and well-known small businesses came to Block Club for some help refreshing their brand, and it wasn’t just from caffeine. In a relatively short time, Public Espresso + Coffee has been able to get a significant foothold in the local market with tremendous brand recognition, and, aside from roasting delicious coffee, I feel that a big part of that success has come from the fact that they really understood the core values of branding at the root level. Their bold, black and red, Soviet-inspired identity is recognizable from a mile away and this helped to cultivate excitement around their business from Day One. After all, in less than three years, Public has gone from a couple of self-proclaimed “coffee nerds” selling pour-over coffee at local farmer’s markets, to a bustling coffee wholesale and distribution business, as well as one (soon to be two) brick-and-mortar cafe. However, as their business expanded to bigger and bigger stages, they also began to outgrow their initial brand identity. The time had come to tighten things up in order to take it to the next level.

When we entered the picture, Public had a lot of good, raw brand material to work with and we strove to maintain as many of these strengths as possible while approaching this refresh. In order to unify their Russian Constructivist theme and weave it into the identity itself, we started with a completely custom logotype, constructed in tall condensed block forms and topped off with a signature Constructivist ascending angle. The resulting logotype maintains the modern understated simplicity of its predecessor, yet now reads as distinctly Constructivist while conscientiously avoiding the clichés and overused motifs that come with that aesthetic.

Next up, we took their existing hammer-wielding communist worker character and re-drew him in a clean, woodblock illustration style. We also outfitted the Bolshevik barista (who has affectionally been dubbed “Vlad”) with an updated portafilter to complete his makeover.

The original Public logo lockup was contained within a black circle, so we opted to have “Vlad” breaking out of the circle with his barista’s portafilter in order to further reinforce the revolutionary themes in their brand story as it applies to their place in the third wave coffee movement. The primary logo lockup utilizes a semi-circle of red which creates dimension, and also creates some nice white space within the lockup so that the logotype can take center stage. Lastly, we carefully tweaked the color palette to a nicely complementary pair; a slightly deeper, less-orange crimson and a subtly off-black, deep blue-gray.

To put all the pieces together, we created a series of subtly varying lockups to give the brand flexibility across a variety of applications. Having this range of brand options ensures that their identity will always look correct no matter what space the logo lives in while still being cohesive.

We also created a number of exciting collateral items around this refresh (packaging, menus, stationery, gift cards, signage, etc.) some of which are already in the public eye and some of which Public will be revealing over the coming weeks. So next time you’re downtown, make sure to stop by the Hotel @ The Lafayette and grab a cup of delicious coffee and check out the first tastes of the new brand.

Coffee nerds of the world, unite!

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