Client work is a rewarding experience as a student. You learn about a client’s needs and work with them to incorporate their feedback, all while receiving the helpful advice of design professors who can guide you through this new process. Navigating client work can also be easier with the help of a team.

Local coffee company Earnest and Humble approached the Visual Communication Design (VCD) program in early 2020 for help redesigning their packaging. The company was founded from a desire to provide ethically-sourced and sustainably-made coffee from East African farmers, inspired by the founder’s connection to his Ugandan culture and his family’s history of coffee farming.

The objective of the packaging redesign was to create a product that paid homage to the company’s East African heritage, while also incorporating a minimal and modern style. There were 12 teams of VCD students competing to win the client. My team consisted of myself and three other classmates.

After meeting with the client to learn about their objectives for the packaging and ask questions, we brainstormed ideas as a team. Some ideas we came up with included organic coffee leaf shapes, minimalist iconography patterns conveying aspects of community and coffee growing, as well as a line-art illustration telling the story of the Earnest and Humble coffee bean. The client particularly liked the storytelling approach, as well as the simplicity of the coffee leaf idea.

As a team, we decided to combine the two approaches, since the coffee leaf could easily be incorporated into the line art design. Each team member took a stab at translating the illustration into a box, bag and k-cup format. With the help of our professors, as well as our collective team feedback, we decided on a final design to share with the client.

Presenting our idea to the client was another challenge because we not only had explain our creative process but also make our idea stand apart from those of our classmates. I took the lead on drafting our team’s talking points for the final presentation.

Touching on the client’s key objectives, I made sure to describe the inspiration and approach we took in carefully crafting our design:

For our design, we were inspired by the journey of an Earnest and Humble coffee bean as it is planted, grown and transported to your cup. We want to keep the brand connected to its East African roots while also conveying a simple and sustainable farm-to-table approach to coffee growing. Using minimalistic line art and flowing organic lines, we’ve illustrated aspects of the East African landscape where the bean is grown. Our design tells a story of a process that is natural, sustainable and connected to its environment.

Collaboratively working on a project with others taught me how to creatively compromise by taking the best elements of each person’s design to build even better. I also learned to lean upon others’ strengths, as well as assert my own. For example, one of my teammates was a talented illustrator, while another was great at marketing and research, while I was strong in scripting our presentations and vocalizing our ideas to the client.

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