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Fresh coffee: spilling the beans on the Biohazard rebrand

In an underground lab somewhere totally remote, they’re testing the effects of mass amounts of caffeine on humans, watching them perform tasks at ridiculous speeds with ridiculous efficiency.

As they’re doing rounds, one guard notices that a testing cell is empty—he sounds the alarm but it’s too late, the patient has escaped with a bag of the test materials and the formula. Far away, a day later, an airplane lands and a man gets off the plane.

In his bag are two things: a gas mask and a bag of coffee beans in a biohazard bag. The patient has one goal: to start an underground society of caffeinated super-humans…

That’s the (fictional) story behind New York coffee brand Biohazard Coffee. The team isn’t sure if it will ever use that story with the brand officially, but it was talking through it that guided the rebranding of THE WORLD’S STRONGEST COFFEE, with a little help from Affinity Designer.

Biohazard’s designer Patch Kroll has the story…

The real story of Biohazard Coffee is pretty different: three guys from Brooklyn were running multiple businesses and needed a strong coffee that could keep them energised throughout the day. After trying all the ‘mainstream’ strong coffees and finding them un-drinkable, they decided to find a new roast that not only tasted great but was more caffeinated.

After six months of taste-tests and lab results, Biohazard Coffee was born and went on the market in spring of 2016.

When I joined Biohazard Coffee in 2018, there was already a fair amount of hype surrounding the product. Still, the founders felt that they could put more energy into the brand, and expand it into new markets with new packaging and an advanced social media campaign.

After a few days of discussion, where we came up with the fake backstory and some initial visuals, the team ultimately decided to fully rebrand the product—complete with a new website, a new blog, and more. To get started on the rebranding, I cranked up Affinity Designer.

I became familiar with Designer back when the beta was out for Windows, and it’s been my go-to program ever since. To me, it has all the best features of the mainstream products, but streamlines the creative processes of shape building and asset creation.

I started with redesigning the logo because it was obvious, we needed a new one. The logo we had been using was in the public domain; the one created by Charles Baldwin for Dow Chemical in the 1960s.

Biohazard logo

Baldwin’s remained the primary source of inspiration, but I wanted something that was not only original, but that had a Freemason-eye feel to make Biohazard Coffee feel like a secret society like it was in our fake backstory.

I also thought it was important to add elements that hinted that it was a coffee brand, so I added shapes that are either recognised as a coffee bean or coffee cup—you can decide which it is for yourself.

Initial packaging concepts

The packaging came a lot easier than the logo. Essentially we knew that we wanted to keep it looking relatively similar to the old one: black with white text and a slight accent colour, and wanted the packaging to feel minimal on most sides, and have way more information on the back.

To test colours and layout of the packaging, I dragged open a new artboard and templated a foldable package about the size of the actual coffee bag. After printing and folding some bags with different options for discussion, I met with the team to go over them.

“Here’s the cool part: because you can get so fast at using Affinity Designer, during the discussion I was able to listen to the teams feedback and actually edit and make the package as people talked. When the discussion was over, I printed off the group’s edits, folded it, and showed them—that went over REALLY well.”

And because it was sized to spec in Affinity Designer, I just took a quick trip over to the Export Persona and sent it off to the printers.

It’s easy, quick, and impressive.

I continued to use Affinity Designer to design the new website, shipping boxes, t-shirts and stickers, all of which went live with the packaging and rebrand.

Biohazard coffee sticker design

Having that original, albeit fake story combined with speedy, powerhouse Affinity Designer made it possible to not only imagine my vision, but produce it.

Biohazard final packaging design