ThoughtMatter Envisions Equitable Coffee Future

Oval Shape of Coffee Cherry Is Badge of Protest

For many, coffee is simply a pleasurable part of a daily ritual and a source of energy. But a more complicated truth is that producers of said coffee, indigenous farmers, usually don’t participate financially at the highest levels of the coffee industry. This is what inspired the creation of the Coffee Coalition for Racial Equity (CCRE), an organization dedicated to building an equitable coffee trade. And when they needed an identity to match their mission, they turned to ThoughtMatter design studio for branding rooted in the traditions of protest that calls attention to the full story of the plant behind the brew.





To do this, the agency engaged their ROCK-IT system, an iterative, design sprint-like branding process created for non-profits, startups and organizations. ThoughtMatter developed and solidified a single big idea that nailed the organizational mission: the coffee cherry – the seeds or beans of which we roast, grind, and brew to make coffee. “The coffee cherry is not what most people think of when they think of coffee. They think of the bean,” says ThoughtMatter Creative Director Ben Greengrass. “However, using the bean as a symbol disregards the labor and work of people of color, who historically faced racism within the coffee industry.”





This became the anchor of the overall identity with the oval shape of the coffee cherry providing a badge-like logo for the coalition to stand behind – a symbol of the movement. Gradients were incorporated to represent the shift in the industry towards racial equity with green representing the history of race in coffee, yellow signifying education, and red encouraging urgent action. The typeface, Martin, was also chosen for its historical significance – designed by Tre Seals, who founded Vocal Type Co. to diversify design through typography. It is inspired by the typography on posters of civil rights movement protests. Each element is woven together into a complete branding system including everything from brandmark to overall messaging to a new website.



The Coalition was founded by Phyllis Johnson, who was inspired to start the organization after writing a widely applauded open letter about racism and the coffee industry in late 2020.