Ray: I’m Ray.

Kandace: I’m Kandace.

Ray: Welcome to Unpacking Coffee. This week-

Kandace: It’s Four Barrel.

Ray: The triumphant return of Four Barrel Coffee of San Francisco, California.

Four Barrel Coffee New Packaging

Ray: So we covered this before on episode 342. We spoke with Mike Squires of Four Barrel NYC, I guess.

Kandace: Yeah, so we covered them on episode 16, Ray.

Check out the original Unpacking Four Barrel episode.

Ray: Oh, you know the episode number. I didn’t-

Kandace: I know the episode number.

Ray: Nice.

Kandace: And Mike Squires, Brand Ambassador:

Mike Squires: I think they would call me an Account Manager. I think “Brand Ambassador” sounds so much more sophisticated, and I have a mustache, so-

Ray: Are you … You do the whole West Coast?

Mike Squires: I do the East Coast.

Ray: Oh, the East Coast.

Mike Squires: Yeah, I don’t know if you’ve looked at a map lately, but New York…

Original Packaging

Ray: So for the show this week, we spoke with Kevin Tudball.

Kandace: Kevin was both the Art Director and his illustrations grace the Friendo-Blendo espresso blend bag.

Kevin: My name is Kevin Tudball. I’m a graphic designer focusing mostly on illustration. I work for myself down in Santa Cruz, California. And I am the former Art Director for Four Barrel Coffee.

Kandace: What are we talking about today? Why are they back?

Ray: They’re back because they redesigned their packaging and if there’s one thing that Needmore loves-

Kandace: So the original packaging was designed by Jeremy Tooker almost a decade ago. I’m pretty sure he designed this and then built the entire café from his bare hands.

Ray: With his brawn.

Kandace: With his brawns and muscle. It’s bronze and muscle? It stuck around for almost ten years and it’s become pretty iconic.

Kevin: It was so simple and clean that I know a lot of coffee companies respected it, and at the same time I think Jeremy thought, like, “I’ll make this thing, and it probably won’t be there forever.”

Original Four Barrel packaging

Original Four Barrel packaging

Kandace: Right.

Kevin: So they were kind of planning for quite a while to change the bag, but they weren’t ready to do it until they felt right, and I think the longer they did that, the more iconic their first bag became.

Kandace: Right.

Kevin: So then it became like, “We have to change this thing that everyone knows and associates with us, and it’s part of our brand, even though we didn’t plan it to be so much.”

Kandace & Ray Unpacking Four Barrel

New Packaging

Kandace: A lot of brands when they go from their craft bag with the logo stamped on, they change pretty significantly. A lot of times you can barely distinguish it as the same coffee, and something interesting about this redesign is that it’s like an evolution, but it’s not … It doesn’t feel like a different brand. This feels very in line with-

Isabella Dawid Wolf for Four Barrel Coffee

Ray: There is this sort of linen sort of wine label on both sides so-

Kandace: It actually is a wine label, Ray.

Ray: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kandace: It’s not even a sort of wine label. These are printed by the same people that print wine labels.

Ray: You go to a wine section and there’s just beautiful art everywhere.

Kandace: Yeah.

Kevin: And you can get sucked into that world. And at least right now in coffee, there’s a lot of really clean, modern packaging. There’s a lot of old school craft style … But we weren’t seeing a ton of art work.

Kandace: Yep.

Kevin: It’s so simple because it’s just like … We thought of it exactly like doing a wine bottle. And that’s even part of the reason for the depth of the black. You want it to pop off just like on a wine bottle. We thought about the information that wineries put on their labels and then like-

Ray: And then they actually reversed these bags so that on the inside you actually see some brewing instructions. Not something you see everyday in bag design. I like it.

Kandace: Especially the pattern on the inside was something that took quite a bit of work to get perfected. It’s not something that the printer had ever done before.

Kevin: That was a very interesting piece of the puzzle. I think Jeremy was the one who came up with that idea. And was like, “I want printing on the inside.” And how common is that for other packaging? Totally, totally common. But for coffee? No one was doing it, and I don’t know that anyone else is yet, because it was a very complicated process.

Kandace + Kevin

The bag manufacturer had never done it before. They talked to the plant, the plant was like, “We can, but we don’t know how it’s going to go. Like we don’t even know it’s going to look.”

So we had to have a lot of room for error. I forget what we were thinking initially for the inside. It have even been this pattern for the inside initially. But then they were like, “Well, it has to be a pattern, because the plates can shift and things can be … ” They were like, “It could shift an inch, we have no idea.” Because they run the paper through the big printing press, they flip it and then they shoot it back through again, and they’re like, “We don’t know.” And then they have to adhere the clear layer on the inside to keep everything fresh, and hopefully the ink doesn’t bleed when you do that.

Kandace: No.

Kevin: So it was kind of like a shot in the dark.

Kandace: Basically they say that this whole process took about seven years. That means of course that there were a few designs that got close to being the design, and then didn’t quite make it.

Kevin: You know we almost had a complete design. We were all pretty excited about it, pretty happy with it. Then we made a bunch of mock-ups and put it up on the shelf in our café. And we were like, “Oh. This, no. This one’s not the one.” Once we see it on the shelf, and really step back, we were like, “It’s not popping off the shelf, it doesn’t have the power we’re wanting.”

Kandace: Yeah.

Kevin: It’s kind of like, “All right, back to the drawing board.”

Kandace: So let’s talk about the art.

Kevin: Sure.

Kandace: Right, so we’ve got Kevin’s art is on the-

Ray: Blendo.

Kandace: Espresso blend. And that looks like something that’s going to stay, but then all of the other bags have new artists for each coffee, so they launched with two artists [Izabella David Wolf and Paul Madonna] and then will keep bringing in new artists. Four Barrels at the La Marzocco café up in Seattle for July, which means two of their espressos are going out with the subscription.

Ray: Four Barrel Coffee Roasters of San Francisco, California.

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