By now, you've probably noticed the gorgeous logos, characters, and design work that makes up the Reconstruction Coffee Roasters branding. Every piece of that is thanks to an incredibly talented graphic designer named Nathan Oser, who has been working with us from the beginning in order to develop the right visual brand for our company. We’re so grateful to be working with Nathan, because he doesn’t just make incredible visual designs–though let’s be clear, he absolutely does make incredible visual designs–but he also works harder than anyone else to make sure he really understands the reason and purpose behind the companies and the people he designs for.
We love Nathan’s Reconstruction work so much that we want to take a few blog posts to break down some of the elements of his designs, and to take the opportunity to not just show you what he’s created, but to explain why he created it that way. There are deeper, hidden meanings within each and every piece of his work that give our branding incredible depth, and we thought we'd share a few of those layers with you.
We wanted a design that harkened back to the Reconstruction era, which was the challenging and defining time in America’s history that immediately followed the Civil War. We’ll share more about why we chose that period as the basis for our brand in later blog posts, but what we were hoping to achieve was a logo that spoke to that era (1865 – 1880ish) while still feeling modern and relevant today.
This is the final design that Nathan came up with:
It has an old-timey feel that still fits in with logos for modern-day start-ups. It’s a contemporary-styled throwback, and we’re not quite sure how he pulled it off, but he definitely pulled it off.
1: The steamboat smokestack represents a time when the great Mississippi was the major economic driver for Missouri, and it also puts me in mind of Mark Twain, who lived and wrote during the Reconstruction Era, and as a writer myself, that makes me just so happy. The smokestack also elicits an idea of forward progress, because when smoke was rising out of that stack, you knew the ship was moving forward. And the fact that Nathan emphasized the crown-style shape of the vent on top of the stack is how we knew it was the perfect symbol. Because Reconstruction aims to be the best coffee roasting cooperative in the country, and a Missouri-style crown is pretty much perfect.
2. Nathan did a ton of research for this project, and he found a lot of Reconstruction-era designs that used this sort of diamond-pointed flourish. I also love that he used the periods in St.L and MO. It’s a really subtle way of integrating an old-fashioned feel to a piece. (And I know a lot of you will want to know why we’re emphasizing St. Louis, MO instead of Villa Ridge, MO when our main roastery is being built in Villa Ridge, and that, too, is another topic for another time–and we will absolutely write a post on that, so if you haven’t already done so, make sure you’re subscribed to our mailing list, so that little bit of information comes right to your inbox).
3. We have our own font! I guess it’s time to admit that you’re a design nerd when you get excited about having your own font, so…guilty as charged. We could talk a lot about why Nathan styled the letters the way he did, or why some of the letters connect to the other letters like they do (the “T,” for example), but instead, we want to focus on the “i.” The Reconstruction font is all uppercase, except for the “i.” That’s because when we started Reconstruction, we wanted to create a coffee culture that speaks to the bringing together of different people, different viewpoints, different ideas, and different experiences. The lowercase “i” reminds us that alone, we are small…but together–and especially when we work to rebuild our relationships–we are much, much greater.
4. Nothing too mysterious here! The Roman numerals signify our year of inception, which is 2019, or MMXIX. Or, in Reconstruction terms, MMXiX.
5. The flame signifies the roasting of coffee, but look close…did you notice that the base of the fire is a coffee bean?
6. Our Missouri roots are so important to us. As someone who left the St. Louis area and spent about a decade in Chicago, I think I can say with some real authority that there’s nowhere like Missouri. Sometimes that’s good, and sometimes it’s a challenge, but whatever it is, it’s who we are, and it’s ingrained into Reconstruction. That’s why Nathan inserted a crescent moon as part of our coffee flame. If you haven’t had a chance to look at the Missouri state flag recently, go check it out. You’ll see a white crescent moon on a field of blue. Using that moon as part of our flame is just one of the ways we’ve integrated our Missouri roots into this company.
7. This is the sneakiest layer of all. But do you see how the circles around the flame are broken? If you notice, there are five full lines on the bottom right of the flame, while the lines on the top left are a little scattered. Now think of those lines as shadows. There are a lot of shadows on the bottom right, but fewer shadows on the upper left. That means the light from the coffee bean fire is radiating mostly to the upper left.
Now look at the smokestack. See how there’s only one thin line on the right-hand side of the stack, but a thin line and a thicker line on the left-hand side? Now think of those lines as shadows, too.
You just might notice that the shadows from the flame are on the right, and the shadows on the smokestack are on the left.
That’s not an accident. Nathan designed the logo so that the “light” and the “shadow” come from two different directions, and it’s meant to symbolize the fundamental idea of Reconstruction itself: That two different ideas, or opinions, or viewpoints, can come together and meet in the middle (in this case, the middle of the logo) and still retain their essence, but co-exist for a time while they try to reconstruct the similarities that bring them together.
Every piece that Nathan has designed for us has this sort of deeper-level meaning, and we can’t wait to share them all with you! In our next branding-specific blog post, we take a look at Horace the Signalman and his cryptic “STOP AND RE____” message. Make sure you’re signed up for our newsletter, and that you like us on Facebook, so you don’t miss a thing! And if you have friends or family who might be interested, send them on over. We’d be grateful for their support!