Joe Coffee
Readying a third-wave coffee brand for the national stage

Since its founding in 2003, the family-run Joe Coffee Company has become a cherished fixture in New York City. For many New Yorkers, the chain was where they first experienced the pleasures of third-wave coffee, a movement that takes java as seriously as oenophiles take wine. It grew to 15 locations around the city by being as committed to the role of comfortable neighborhood fixture as it was to latte art.

Joe Coffee was acquired by Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group in 2017. The group had ambitious plans to duplicate the success it had achieved with Shake Shack: take a beloved Big Apple franchise national without losing all the things that hometown devotees love about it.

Evolution of a logo: The first three images are Joe Coffee’s wordmark when it was a New York City institution. Godfrey Dadich’s revised version on the right is designed with a nationwide franchise in mind.

Godfrey Dadich was tasked with helping them clarify their strategy and brand identity as they geared up for expansion. After internal and external stakeholder interviews, a brand health audit in key markets, and competitive research, we devised a strategy that centered on “The Heart of the Village.” From Stonewall to the Voice, Washington Square to the Public Theater, the Village has always celebrated differences and the creative spirit. It’s where Joe Coffee started, at the corner of Waverly and Gay.

The inviting serifs and open angles of the mark we created for Joe Coffee speak to the company’s core values: curiosity, craft, commitment, and community. No detail was too small: the tilted counter on the letter O evokes a coffee bean, and the optimistic curves of the letter E make it seem to smile at you.

Every Joe Coffee franchise reflects the heart of the people and places it serves. The shop is a welcome respite from the rest of the world, where everyone can feel comfortable and accepted. It’s a place where the people are always warm, the vibe is always genuine, and the coffee is always fantastic.

Godfrey Dadich designed the new Joe Coffee identity with this strategy in mind. We settled on an icon that symbolized this sense of communal enjoyment: the wooden benches found in front of every shop. We then created a wordmark ecosystem that would serve the expansion of the brand beyond New York City.

Meyer felt that the shade of blue that Joe Coffee had been using in its logo was too soft, neutral, and innocent. He felt it needed more New York attitude—more swagger. After exhaustive and wide-ranging exploration, we hit upon a shade that we dubbed Everyday Blue. It feels optimistic and welcoming, with an extra shot of Big Apple attitude.

With this comprehensive identity system in place, the Joe Coffee team asked us to create a packaging framework for their bags, labels, and cups. When we were exploring colors, we kept in mind that we needed a hue that would pop on different substrates–earth-toned paper, bright white stock, glossy packaging, and fabric.

We defined an entirely new design system for Joe Coffee’s bean packaging.

We redesigned the packaging for Joe Coffee’s 12-ounce whole beans from top to bottom: considering materials, dimensions, color system, and a scalable design for the labels utilizing brand typefaces. The bags employ a hierarchy of colors across the variety of roasts. We wrote language for the bag and labels to surface information about the coffee—origin, elevation, washed or natural—in a way that draws in aficionados as well as those curious to learn more.

We gave to-go cups a system that worked across sizes, as well as for both hot and cold drinks. When you see someone walking down the sidewalk with one of these cups in hand, the flood of the vibrant Everyday Blue serves as a quiet nod that they’re part of the Joe Coffee community.

The work we did with Joe Coffee is now integral to every aspect of the company’s look and feel. It employs our mark and our color schemes across its product packaging, cups, displays, and merchandise like bags and mugs. We were very proud to see our mark on the storefront signage. “Working with GDP has been a highlight of my 17 years with Joe Coffee,” says Jonathan Rubinstein, founder and CEO of the company. “Their team was creative, thoughtful, forward thinking, collaborative, and innovative, and I believe all of these qualities contributed to the excellent final product.”