Case Study: Liquid Juice Bar

I thought I would do things a smidge differently this go around. Instead of just showcasing the visual outcome of the branding process between myself and the client, I thought I would talk through some of the decisions that were made. This particular branding project for Liquid Juice Bar is one of my absolutely favorites; not only for the final results (which are gorgeous if I do say so myself), but how the process I used to arrive at those results became even more refined MIDprocess! It was absolutely one of those now-clichéd ‘Ah-a’ moments, and if I could call it something different and you’d get that same idea, I would, but I can’t! Let’s leave it at that.

During the initial consult with Amanda Dumas (owner of said juice bar) she, Jake and myself spoke about how she favored a more simplified and minimalistic approach to things. As we made ourselves acquainted with the space and her current look, that was really clear to me. But simple is often mistaken for boring and bland when it doesn’t have to be!

While the aesthetic was to be pared down, the feel of the logo was to have the ideal mix of sophisticated chic and a chill friendly vibe. Amanda wanted the store to be a place where people felt comfortable to just come and hang out.

I knew I had an interesting challenge in front of me!

I always like to start with the typography before I get into colors, textures, and any other side doodlies that really sell the brands they’re attached to.

For Liquid, I knew a play on the Q was where I wanted to start.

Right away I went straight for the play on the Q, staying within a modern, but rounded (and therefore more friendly and welcoming) sans-serif. I also love how the modified Q in both the capitalized versions, feel like an aerial view of a coffee mug.

When the client picked this idea, I wanted to explore a wider set of solutions for the play on the Q’s tail. How do I know which looks the best if I don’t explore myself?

My favorites from this set are 1, 2, 10, 11, 12. 6 is cute and 3 looks like a citrus fruit got smooshed by something hard and round, but could work too. I enjoyed the ones where fluidity and the tail became natural friends. I hate when things feel forced (like 7). Even though I disliked it, I kept it– and even showed perfect strangers about it, for no good reason other than to say to people : Even if you don’t like it, show it to the client. Don’t take opportunities away that might sing to someone else.

I always like to take an example of the idea a step further, in order to communicate the ‘bigger picture’ idea I’m working towards. It helps keep the client in tune with my mindset, and also allows the client to dream a bit bigger– while still being grounded in reality.

I chose to throw in a third option, and provide another variation in a more specialized setting. Breaking the ‘L’ ‘Q’ and ‘D’ from the LIQUID, I was hoping to communicate an option of iconography or abbreviation, while still keeping the brand recognizable. I also wanted to break up the different drops to form a container/frame for the letters, giving a free-formed but structured space, pushing that friendly, cool, laid back vibe the client had been wanting.

The client saw this, liked it, but felt it was too busy for what she was imagining. Out of all of the variations, she loved the very first concept. The simple LIQUID with the tear drop-as-tail. You really can’t ask for better feedback than that– other than “OH MY GOD THIS IS BRILLIANT”. Aside from “BRILLIANT!”, “I liked what you had originally! It was PERFECT” will have a hard time getting beat.

The client had worked with a lettering artist to do the menus in the revised color palette, and so we went back to the store to take shots of those for reference.

The colors were GREAT; but how to make those colors work together, in a brand, without it feeling kitschy, hokey, or god forbid- tacky  (and yes they’re all different).

My first attempt to tackle this was waaaaaay too busy, I see that now. But I was attempting to communicate movement, energy, and ‘community’ in the sense of juice and its being a living organism, and the human body, and all of that great stuff! My intentions were good? Doesn’t that count?

Not really.

Coming back to these after I’ve finished the project, it’s clear that I didn’t really understand what the client was aiming for, and I SUPER didn’t understand how I was going to achieve that. Color is absolutely a wonderful tool in any designer’s arsenal to communicate with; it speaks volumes just by existing. But you also need to be able to use restraint (I know, I hear you, self. Restraint. With color, I get it. BUT IT’S SO HARD!) That’s what’s wrong with these– there’s no breathing room. It’s just excitement and energy, tumbling over one an other. Cool for a poster, bad for a brand.

The other shapes I explored:

When the client asked to see the logo in a circle shape, I instantly felt panic pangs. The kind of panic that comes with the devastating fear of awkward negative space! Oh no!

But I realized, in the throes of true designer panic, that this newly created boundary was going to provide me with a fresh set of eyes to solve this problem. When your creative options dwindle, and all you’re left with is an increasingly DECREASING small window to solve this problem, that’s when my survival instincts kick into gear and I start cracking my problem-solving whip. Limitations to the creative aren’t the hindrance. The hindrance is how the creative handles those limitations. They can either see them as stepping stones to a new way to problem solve (aka growth through difficulty– probably the easiest way to “grow”) , or they can shrivel up feeling defeated that the client didn’t throw a parade at the slightest wimple of a designer’s opinion. Both have their merits, I guess.

I choose the first one, because I enjoy the challenge of an unsolved problem. With Amanda wanting the simplicity of a circle, I was left with no choice but to come up with a way for ‘cool’, ‘chic’ ‘friendly’ and the conceptual idea of part-to-whole (it is a droplet afterall), I came up with this:

A visually fluid treatment using only the colors used in her menus, in an overlayered effect. It creates the perfect solution. It’s a sophisticated, sultry-but-cool vibe, but still welcoming and friendly. The circle treatment works beautifully for the cups, and stickers, and all of that, but what I really love about this concept is the ability to break the treatment out of the circle, maintaining the visual treatment in its entirety and feel. It’s a gorgeous solution, and one that I know I would never have come upon had it not been for Amanda’s personal taste.

Here’s the final logo with the tagline Amanda came up with:

I know it’s definitely the case for me that I can get sucked far too deep within my own personal taste and aesthetic! While it can be beneficial to maintain a clear tone of voice with your visual work, it can also become a dangerous trap to never consider what someone else’s view point can offer– especially when that someone is your client! I know I must sound like a brown noser,but as a designer, and not an artist, I feel we have an obligation to be more of a facilitator between the design education and visual arts, and the client; with their very clear cut needs and objectives. In this way, the design profession can serve to be a beautiful blend of educator and creative.

The brand I’ve created for Amanda Dumas and her juice bar might not be perfect, but I love it for how well it solves her problem. I also will always cherish the experience of working with her because she has changed how I’ve designed from now on. Every client after this will get a more objective stance on their brand, the direction they should take, and basic aesthetic of it all. As a designer, that’s a pretty big shift. But as a business owner? That’s a gift I will be grateful for for the rest of my working days.

And just because I really enjoyed the variations more so than the final (Sorry Amanda!), I wanted to sneak in one more set of variations. This set was the last bit of tweaks to the circle idea, and it just explored pushing the boundaries of ‘liquidness’ while maintaining a clean, minimal, and still solidly circular feel:

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