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The Finished Products

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Coffee Bag Design Work


Song: Pomegranate by Sober Sound Record

Coffee bags designed for CTRL Coffee Roasters, a startup coffee company from Guelph, Ontario

The Process

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My goal was to create packaging that was first and foremost artwork. I wanted to create a branding aesthetic that would embody the young, bold and optimistic energy of this company. As the project developed I realized that I wanted to share the process work that led to the final design because I found each step of the process to be beautiful in and of itself. Below are some of the earliest bag concepts

Early Bag Concepts

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The early design process for these bags involved a lot of experimentation; arranging a series of coffee-themed graphics into different compositions, colour palettes and orientations. The result was a collection of rough ideas that loosely came to define the artistic direction of the project. There were no limits aside from the dimensions of the bag at this stage, the idea that this was meant to be product packaging had no bearing on the iterative stages; only ideas and experimentation were important. 

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Once the direction was clear and the best compositions and palettes had been chosen, the focus of the project shifted to creating finished assets that could be used on the final bag. The early stages were about colour, shape, composition and overall feel of the project, whereas these next stages focused on refining more detailed elements like adding realistic textures, polishing graphics and designing the more functional/information aspects of the coffee bag. The new objective was to maintain the energy and expressive quality of the early concepts, by avoiding getting overly tight and technical in these more detailed design stages. 

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Raster Illustration (pixels)

Vector (Pathways)

Vector (Anchor Points)

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Realistic Textures

I learned so much about formatting and printing from this project. The manufacturers required very specific file types, colour profiles, export settings, font files and so many more small details which forced me to better understand the function of the programs and file types that I had been working with.


Turning these exciting ideas into something that a manufacturer can actually print proved to be the most challenging and interesting aspect of this project. Most product packaging can only be printed from vector files (coordinate based graphics), meaning that all of the pixel based (raster) images from the ideation stages, needed to be transformed into this new, more refined format. The detailed charcoal drawings had to be "image traced" and became complex shapes composed of millions of "paths" and "vertices" that simulated the original detail of the drawing. The same was done for many of the paper-like and halftone textures. The final results were massively complex vector files.

I included this description of the formatting process because it may be interesting to people familiar with these programs, but also because I found the entire process of this project to be unexpectedly beautiful, especially in the unfinished, in between stages. The procedurally generated results of image tracing, the web of colourful "paths" and the pointillism-like patterning of the anchor points were really inspiring to me, and in part, actually helped inform the design language of this project. Problem solving new ways of expressing ideas within the constraints of a very linear program forced me to rely more on design principles like contrast, balance and space in order to maintain the impact of the original ideas. Without the freedom of expression that comes with more lenient modes of design and art making, the emphasis on the basics of design was even greater. 

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