An insight into our 360 brand process | The Collective
This insight will showcase the behind the scenes development of our latest Coffee Shop project. Discover what it takes to turn an idea into a cohesive and memorable hospitality brand. From initial brand strategy, through the design process, right up to the interior visualisation stage, this blog will break down each part of the process and demonstrate why each is imperative to creating a successful brand. The three main topics this blog will cover are brand strategy, brand identity and interior design. We will break down the fundamentals, advise on how to put these into practice in your own brand, whilst also sharing relevant real life examples of our very own coffee shop project ‘The Collective.’
The brief for ‘The Collective’ project was to develop a completely new brand inclusive of the brand strategy and creation of brand identity to support the launch of a new coffee shop. Alongside the brand and identity work a requirement of the brief is to complete a full refurbishment of the space, shop facade and outdoor space. The proposed location of this coffee shop was a fairly modest size site in West Bridgford (Nottingham), they will mainly serve coffee and have a small food offering. West Bridgford is an affluent area so this needs to be considered with regards to the audience and type of people that may be passing by. The client’s vision for this coffee shop was for it to have a more premium offering than the immediate competitors and be a welcoming hub for 40/50 + as well as mums for day time coffee meets. With the scope of work understood the next key steps are to look at the brand strategy.
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Brand strategy is effectively the driving force behind your business, decision making, brand collateral, communication and brand experiences. When an effective brand strategy is put into practice it will act as the foundation of your brand development, this strategy assists the brand to work towards long term ambitions and helps maintain clarity across the brand. Through brand clarity, strategic thinking and planning you can create cohesion and ensure a consistent approach and therefore clear communication to the end user too.
Brand strategy is a key starting point for new brands looking to establish themselves as well as existing brands that have reached a point where there is disconnect. As brands grow and evolve it’s natural for there to be challenges, whilst growth is a good thing, brands need to harness this to ensure they position themselves with a considered strategy for future success. Brand strategy ensures that new or existing brands align their brand purpose, values and vision and alleviate potential challenges and ultimately build a cohesive and well positioned brand.
Grey Coffee believe that brands should adopt a 360 approach, this essentially means working in a holistic way when it comes to brand strategy, design and brand experiences (whether this be online or an interior space.) How do you ensure that each and every experience you craft for your customer is purposeful and connected to your brand DNA? The answer is simple and it comes back to brand strategy.
Our 360 brand process starts with our Brand Clarity workshop. This provides key decision makers the opportunity to get to grips with the core reason the brand exists. It’s only when you break a company down and carefully consider each element on a deeper level that you get a sense of the brand’s true and authentic culture. With this deeper understanding you can start to align the brand values, personality, culture and positioning. Throughout this workshop Grey Coffee guides teams to strategically work through some of the biggest challenges they face, and will face, as a brand.
Each brand workshop approach is different but we focus on the following:
- Who are you – Define a clear vision and purpose for the brand.
- Audience and Values – Define brand values and key audience personas.
- Positioning & Personality – Analyse brand landscape, differentiation and personality.
- Your Brand Story – Clarify your brand experience and establish visual brand clarity
- Planning the way forward – Implementing this strategy across the brand
Once you have invested time into your brand you are in a much better position to make decisions and move forward with other areas of the business for example, developing your brand identity or designing the online or interior customer experience. If you are ready to delve deeper into your brand have a look at our Free Brand Strategy template which you can download and work through yourself.
The Collective | Coffee Shop Brand Strategy
To present a clear and purposeful brand to your audience you need total clarity and a deep understanding of why the brand exists to start with, and this MUST go beyond the superficial. We encourage all businesses to think ‘brand first’ and especially new brands, the brand landscape at the moment is challenging and customers are much more focused on the greater purpose and impact brands are having rather than the product or service offering. Consequently, brands who are not engaged with their own values, brand purpose or their communities will struggle to cut through the noise – especially in the highly saturated hospitality industry. Brands need an in-depth strategy to ensure they have a brand offering that is strong enough to stand the test of time. We often refer to this as the ‘why.’
Who are you – Define a clear vision and purpose for the brand. The ‘Why’ is exactly where we started with The Collective. It is often very easy to identify ‘what’ the brand offering will be and ‘how’ this will be achieved, but what’s more important and notably more challenging is the brand’s ‘why.’ A key influence on this part of the brand strategy is Simon Sinek’s start with why Ted Talk, this is a great way to encourage brand thinking.
- Why | The Collective exists to serve the community, and not just the residents, they are the only coffee brand that partners with other local businesses/independants. Actively building relationships and partnerships with local brands to provide unique opportunities, to put back into the town and create a collective hub for the community. In a place where everyone knows everyone, the customers are at the heart of the brand, everything The Collective does is to positively impact the people and local area and beyond.
- What and How | Whilst providing great quality, great tasting and responsibly sourced coffee they also actively engage the local people in the development and tasting of new specialty coffee and food menu development. If the customers aren’t into it, the brand simply won’t offer it. The Collective food offering will be light bites supplied and prepared daily by local suppliers/producers. Signature recipes chosen by the community will be exclusive to the collective, inclusive of all dietary requirements. The brand experience is refined and considered and will offer the locals something different to what they have experienced before. The interior will feel luxurious but comfy and provide a friendly hub for customers, this unique offering will generate organic growth.
Audience and Values – Define brand values and key audience personas. We naturally like to align ourselves with brands that share similar values to us as people so identifying the audience type and shared values of this brand was key at this stage too. To develop the brand’s values, we delve into the customer and what’s important to them, as well as honing in on the ‘why’ of the brand. To narrow down the wide spectrum of potential values we collectively chose the three that align most with the brand, audience, and the founders. Once these have been identified discussions begin around the narrative surrounding these values and what this means for this particular brand.
Positioning & Personality – Analyse brand landscape, define differentiation and personality. A brand’s positioning can make or break a brand’s success, with many contributing factors this is an essential part of the brand strategy to get right. Your brand positioning will be the thing that sets you apart from competitors so you need to position yourself with differentiation and a clear brand offering. Having already identified the audience we had a good idea of the competitors that sit in the brand landscape, carrying out an audit on the closest competitors helped to define what the brand is ‘not’. Knowing what you are not, brings clarity on what your brand offering ‘is’. Once there was clarity on the brand positioning we naturally started to associate characteristics to the brand and this is where developed the brand personality.
- The Only | The collective is the only coffee brand that partners with other local businesses/independents championing inclusivity and collaboration. From floral creations by the local florist to baked bites lovingly made by the bakery down the road. There is longing for connection amongst the community, customers need to feel like they belong to a bigger cause and with the wave of ‘shop local’ set to stay The Collective is the perfect addition to the West Bridgford high street.
- The Hero and Explorer blend | The Hero wants to prove their worth through courage and defending what’s right! They’re determined. Even in the face of adversity, they’ll stay true to themselves. Whilst the Explorer is super independent in their quest, they want to go to new places and discover new lands and pave a better way forward.
Your Brand Story – Clarify your brand experience and establish visual brand clarity The purpose of a brand workshop like Clarity is to deliver a strategic process that shapes or redefines the foundations of a brand. The process is all about ironing out the inconsistencies within a brand and to establish better clarity, better positioning, culture, and therefore strategic growth. The final stages of this process are about reflection, here we bring together each element to craft a considered and clear brand narrative. Each section of this process has been working towards the overall brand story, the outcome should be an authentic, consistent and future proofed brand and a team that are aligned and clear of exactly what the brand offering is.
The next stages for any brand is implementation. This varies slightly for each brand however commonly this part of the process looks at the next natural step for the brand.
This implementation section involves exploring ideas around the online and in person customer experience. Breaking down the customer journey, we look at the customer touchpoints across the brand, how to tell the brand story across multiple channels as well as ideas surrounding visual clarity. A key point to cover here is also to look at brand communication, the tone of voice and language the brand should implement; this will all be led from what was discovered earlier within the workshop. For The Collective the next step meant looking at the implementation of the brand story through the brand identity and through the physical space – coffee shop design.
Communicating consistently across a range of brand touchpoints isn’t easy and designing a brand that is perfectly positioned for your ideal customers can be a real challenge. Designing a brand’s identity is a key feature to defining your brand, it can be the one of the most recognisable features of your brand and when executed well can set you apart from your competition and create a meaningful and memorable experience for your customers. Like any element of a great brand the identity should be crafted and delivered with brand strategy and purpose, putting an ‘off the shelf’ logo above the door is not enough.
We believe in a holistic approach and Grey Coffee take time to understand your brand on a granular level before embarking on any design concepts. Through our Clarity workshop we get to know your brand’s values, personally and more about your audience type, we help you to understand the design implementation of your brand so that you can consistently use it across multiple touch points.
The ‘brand identity’ is only one part of the overall visual communication of a brand and this is why crafting verbal and visual clarity as part of the brand identity process is vital in connecting your customers to your brand. When you craft a visual brand identity that is cohesive in its approach it ensures that the visual communication is scalable, in the same way that brand strategy ensures your brands vision is future proofed.
Whilst there are many elements to a brands identity such as: Logo, wordmark, business cards, packaging, signage etc crafting a brands identity is so much more than creating the above assets, its all about brand storytelling through carefully considered design. A brand’s identity and narrative should come together to create a captivating visual brand experience. It should demonstrate to the customer exactly what your brand stands for, reflect your brand’s message and most importantly be consistent with the rest of the brand’s touchpoints. The identity of a brand should essentially encompass the core parts of the brand and this should be reflected throughout the look and feel, colours, icons, typefaces, design styles, down to the imagery, interior, material choices and communication.
The Collective Brand Identity
The collective visual identity should align completely with the brand and everything it stands for. The idea is to use the brand strategy and development work alongside visual research and design to explore ideas that visually align with the brand but also strengthen the brand concept too. As demonstrated above The Collective purpose is clear, it’s not just just a premium coffee brand but a pillar in the local community. Put simply, the brand provides much more than coffee, this clarity makes the design stages much more focused and refined.
With this in mind it was important to create an identity that demonstrated connectivity, the brand is all about people connecting over a cup of coffee and putting the community it serves at the heart of what they do. Something that was at the forefront of the design and branding process for this project was the fact that it’s a premium but accessible coffee brand. The brand needed to be sophisticated in its colour palette and this needed to be reflected through the icon, and the typefaces we paired for this word-mark.
Like most creative processes we started with more general visual research looking at colours, premium visual concepts, simplistic icons and sophisticated typefaces. Undertaking this research allowed us to unlock ideas surrounding the initial visual ideas for The Collective.
The typeface was a good place to start considering we had already completed lots of development work towards the naming of the collective. The word-mark needed to feel familiar to the customer but also offer something a little bit more elevated. It became clear that we needed to strike a balance between an elegant typeface and a clean aesthetic. Because the tagline was such an important part of the brand messaging it was important to look at the typefaces for both the brand name and also the tagline that would often sit alongside it together. We refined a few ideas and came to a well balanced word-mark which allowed the brand name to have strength when alone but perfectly complimented by the lightweight and simplistic tagline.
The next natural step for this design process was to delve a little deeper into the brand colours, the important thing here was not to restrict the brand to a colour palette but to develop a collection of considered colours that really emulate the brands personality and give a sense of the brands feeling. This palette started with very earthy ideas as we wanted it to be reflective of the authentic and grounded aspect of the brand, however this developed into a more elevated palette. The main rich and cosy burnt orange is anchored by some monochromatic colours as well as some warm punchy accent colours to lift the masculine palette.
A circular concept was a strong point of visual research for the brands icon, another point of research was the coffee bean. Whilst we wanted to nod to the coffee concept we also wanted to ensure this was subtle and refined. A simplistic, abstract and linear graphic style seemed to fit with the feeling of this brand, we explored concepts based on the typography as well as layering block colours and geometric shapes.We also explored concepts based on inclusively and collaboration and this introduced an arc and collection of bean shapes to be created representing togetherness. This idea of beginning people together led to our final design concept, this concept took inspiration from the shape of the coffee bean, the idea of a togetherness explored earlier and also connectivity.
This wordmark is elegant as well as simplistic which emphasises the premium and sophisticated nature of the brand. The continuous and connecting lines of the icon are representative of the collaborative brand purpose. Whilst this icon is abstract there is a subtle link to coffee, this isn’t immediately noticeable in the 1st or 3rd icon variation. The addition and position of this bean shape reinforces the concept of coffee being the thing that brings people together.
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Branded Interior Experience
We are all shaped by experiences and every customer interaction with your brand is a chance to create an amazing experience, alongside multiple brand touch-points, an interior space is one of the main ways you can help create memorable experiences for customers. The most important thing about the interior design concept is to ensure the design aligns with the overall brand.
We believe at Grey Coffee that a strong brand positioning will help lead a better interior process. A carefully thought out branded interior experience will entice new customers, expand your community and build stronger loyalty. Interior branding should communicate not just the brand identity but the brand’s purpose, culture and personality too. The interior concept and customer experience should embody the overall mission and values of the coffee shop brand. The brand should take into consideration the tangible AND intangible elements of the design and ensure the brand ethos is consistent throughout, a well considered brand should connect with its customers on a deeper level.
When brands have a clear purpose they can then start to build cohesion between all of their touch-points and across all assets of their brand both the tangible and intangible. With brand purpose comes greater clarity. Clarity and consistency across all of your brand touch-points is what will help to build better connected brand experiences, which provides brand familiarity, which in turn builds trust with your customers.
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The Collective Interior Concept
The basis of The Collective’s interior concept came from the in-depth knowledge discovered during the brand workshop as well as the visual identity developed for the brand. When designing the coffee shop space it was important to understand the brand’s needs, and the intended functionality of the space, as well as balancing this with the design aesthetics and implementation of the design concept too.
Whilst the site was fairly modest in size, it was essential that the space was designed with function in mind to elevate the business and ensure the experience for both the staff and customers is seamless. After lots of consideration and alternative general arrangements, the counter and service area was best suited on one hand side of the site, this meant that the traffic could flow smoothly on the other side without disturbing the seated customers. A key consideration for this coffee shop was how many ‘covers’ (seats) it could comfortably accommodate, there was not an option to install a W/C so the amount of covers was restricted to 10 due to industry regulations. It was important for the coffee shop that although the site was small they had more than one type of seating option to offer their range of customers. With this in mind we worked towards a small amount of window seating and also some banquet seating for the back wall of the coffee shop providing a more comfortable private seating area perfect for a group or longer visits too.
The Collective coffee shop concept was all about telling the brands story through considered interior design solutions. The interior research undertaken at the initial stage was based around very neutral and paired back spaces, the idea of this was to draw visual references for The Collective’s design development and to delve into how we want the space to make the customer feel. The space needed to be refined and luxurious but also welcoming. We took inspiration from the visual references and started to conceptualise our own ideas, at this point we are looking to pull together a loose scheme specific to The Collective. The aim of an interior concept is to convey the brand through each and every element, essentially the coffee shop needs to be identifiable to the brand even without signage and branding. The next step once we have identified the feel of the interior we are working towards, is to start looking more closely at the furniture, fixtures and equipment that will help covey the brand story. Here we stated to explore the brands colour palette through the material choices and finishes.
The colours used in the coffee shop design don’t need to be restricted completely by the brand colours, this is often a misconception when it comes to developing a branded interior. While it is very important that the look and feel is ‘on brand’ the most important point to think about here was about how the colour and material finishes are align with the brand and how it will help will connect the audience. Making sure the reason behind the interior choices goes beyond them matching is key. The Collective needed to feel familiar, premium bit also warm, introducing the brand colours through the careful choice of floor tiles, wall finishes and subtle material finishes allowed the scheme to develop naturally, every element from the foliage to the lighting and the back of house tile choices were considered carefully when developing the scheme for The Collective.
Furniture is integral to the look and feel of the interior as well as the functionality of the space and consequently has a big impact on the customer experience. Furniture choices and their placement in an interior space is critical to the flow and ambience of a space. Finding the balance between beauty and functionality can be challenging but for The Collective the decision making was easier due to the fact there was so much clarity surrounding the brand intentions.
The premium feel of this brand meant that the choices of upholstery, quality and the style of furniture had to be considered carefully. Whist considering bespoke furniture alongside commercial ‘supplier’ pieces it was important to keep the brand vision in mind to ensure these pieces complemented each other but also the overall concept. The type of customer and the way they will use the space was a key part of making a decision on the comfort of the furniture, and durability/quality of the materials. Lighting has a huge impact on the emotional response customers have to an interior space, the lighting in this coffee shop needed to be both decorative and functional. The choice of a ‘globe’ style of lighting meant that an appropriate amount and warmth of light will be provided in task areas but also meant that the light was soft and non distracting for the customer, as well as being decorative too.
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If you have found this blog helpful you may also like to consider reading some of our other insights.
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