Seattle’s Best Coffee began roasting in 1970 in what was yet to be the northwestern cornerstone of U.S. coffee culture, Seattle. The company has expanded to a modest and respectable 500 stores across twenty states and being the official coffee shop at Borders bookstores, giving it an additional 500 or so outposts. It is also the second largest coffee roaster in the U.S. behind Starbucks, who ironically (or not), owns Seattle’s Best, purchased in 2003 by the giant. Today, Seattle’s Best is announcing a major push in its distribution: By partnering with other retailers like Burger King, Subway and AMC Entertainment (one of the largest movie theater chains in the U.S.), to add Seattle’s Best coffee to their menus, bumping its distribution by about 30,000 points of sale. Additionally, Seattle’s Best will be dispensing coffee via vending machines, although I’m not clear how or where. Along with this announcement, a radically new logo has been introduced, designed by Seattle ad agency Creature.
Forty years later, we decided it was time to take everything great from our past and turn it into something bigger to share with the world. […] While our dedication to making premium coffee isn’t going to change, we needed a new look to match our optimistic outlook and simplified approach to great coffee experiences.
— Promo web site
The overall approach seems to be to make Seattle’s Best more approachable, affordable and accessible with the same visual simplicity of the new competitors its trying to overtake, McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts makes perfect sense. In that regard, the move away from the fuzzy, detailed, vintage label logo. However, by going to the other extreme of simplicity they have achieved the popular generic look of contemporary consumer products, making no difference whether this company sold coffee or house cleaning products, or if you stepped into what will surely be snazzy, metallic decor stores whether you are going to buy coffee or frozen yogurt. I’ll admit that, visually, the logo is striking and makes an impact, I like the thick gray border and the complementary thick white space between the border and the simplified red coffee cup. The typography becomes a little small but I assume that there might be a separate approach for small applications. The Gotham Rounded font is safe, expected and inoffensive, so it works. The color combination is unexpected for a coffee house and perhaps that’s what will make it stand out in the coming years.
This is one of the most radical changes — not in terms of the solution, but the difference between before and after — we’ve seen here in a while and it will be interesting to see it evolve.