This is a slightly off-format entry, I have to admit. It’s not a redesign, it’s not about a logo, and it’s not quite about packaging, at least not mass consumer packaging. But it is about branding at a relatively micro level, which may speak more directly to the kinds of clients the majority of us work on from day to day. So, this is a peek at the work that UK-based designer and illustrator Jim Smith has created over the past decade for Puccino’s, a coffee retailer with franchise locations around the UK that has differentiated itself through humor and an off-beat attitude. And it has been the cups, in-store graphics and myriad little packages that have fully given Puccino’s its unique brand through a consistent style, approach and tone of voice. Following is a brief interview with Jim who has just designed six, brand new cups.
Six new cup designs.
Armin Vit: When did you start working on Puccino’s and how did you get the project?
JS: In 1998. I’d left college and had made a lifesize wooden Santa cutout for a lighting shop. He stood out the front looking menacing. The owner of Puccino’s saw it and asked me to do something similar for one of their shops. They had six then I think. Their marketing guy saw it and brought me in on a three month contract which has lasted ten years.
Jim Smith: What was the direction you got to start your designs?
JS: Everybody was busy growing the business so I was pretty much left to my own devices. They’d already bought into my style which at that point was a Ralph Steadman inspired scratchy pen and ink approach. I sat in a room above one of their stores and did loads of big drawings about coffee. They became posters for the shop walls and went on menus etc.
AV: How did you end up with this particular style?
JS: By constantly working and sucking things up. I draw in my sketchbook everyday and look around and get jealous. You slowly see a style appearing that is a pretty good reflection of yourself and the things you like. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to combine my love of drawing and packaging.
White sugar packets.
AV: Do you do all the copywriting yourself?
JS: Yes. It started out as a way to validate my drawings with a few words underneath and has ended up the other way round.
AV: How often does Puccino’s introduce new designs?
JS: A new set of cups comes out about once a year. I push for it to be more often. I’d like to get to a point where we only do one print run per design.
AV: What have been some of your favorite designs/writings that have not been produced?
JS: I wanted to have “suspicious package” on the side of our paper bags but that was vetoed. And my hanging man tea tag was banned after complaints. I used to like referencing tramps and coffee breath a lot and that stuff never got through. Apart from that most of what I do is accepted.
For more Puccino’s designs, check out Jim’s Flickr set of the ongoing work.