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Intentional Design & The Evolution of the Onyx Brand

By: Niki Weegens

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In 2012, Jon and Andrea Allen founded Onyx with the goal of bringing a renewed level of quality, transparency, and accountability to the world of specialty coffee. Over the last decade, Onyx has been recognized for the commitment to excellence that envelopes every aspect of our business, not only as it relates to the coffees sourced and roasted, but also to the thoughtful experiences that are offered to customers in our cafes and beyond. We can humbly acknowledge that Onyx has grown to become one of the most awarded and loved independent coffee roasters in the country, and we believe that is largely due to the commitment to intentionality and design that lies at the foundation of all that we do.

What does it mean to ‚Äúdesign‚ÄĚ something? One definition is ‚Äúto do or plan with a specific purpose or intention in mind.‚ÄĚ Since the earliest days of Onyx, purpose and intentionality have always been at the front of mind, and that is something we are extremely committed to and very proud of. With esteemed design awards won in the categories of Spaces, Branding, and Packaging, we are honored to have people recognize and appreciate the thoughtful efforts we have put into design since the very beginning of our brand.

While the design aesthetics of our brand have evolved over the last decade, we still hold tightly to several symbolic elements that have remained constantly present over the years. Through all of the visual phases and variants, there has been a consistent thread of meaning that we aim to express in everything we design ‚Äď our branding, packaging, cafes environments, website, and even our merchandise. In all that we create, whether it be a physical product, a space or environment, or even a digital experience, we aim to balance aesthetics with function and meaning, and we are regularly trying to push forward into the new without abandoning the heart behind what we‚Äôve created in the past.

One example of this is the name Onyx itself, along with the visually diverse typographic marks that have been developed to represent the the brand name over the years. When asked about the origin of the name Onyx, Co-Founder Andrea Allen remarked that ‚Äúthe name Onyx is symbolic and a visually beautiful word. Onyx is the only semi-precious gemstone where light can pass through, and as a brand, we try to remain as transparent and natural as possible.‚ÄĚ

Another persisting element of our brand‚Äôs identity and design strategy is to not fear being different or even challenging. Our goal from the beginning has been to push the specialty coffee industry forward, and we have learned from experience that in order to advance beyond where you are, you have to disrupt the status quo. ‚ÄúThe inspiration for the brand has always been influenced by the approach Onyx has taken with coffee. We have always been on the edge of traditional coffee industry practices, always looking to disrupt those stale patterns in a way that benefits the entire coffee community as a whole‚ÄĚ states Jeremy Teff, our Design Director.

The visual design elements that have become iconic inside the Onyx brand are another example of values being translated into visual representation. Skulls might not seem like the most intuitive icon for a coffee brand, but for us, ‚Äúthe skull represents the rebellious, contrarian spirit that is at the heart of Onyx's culture and philosophy‚ÄĚ says Taylor Morgan, our Graphic Designer and Director of Merchandise. Jeremy Teff adds, ‚Äúin the beginning, our aesthetic was a bit more gritty and raw, much like our approach to coffee. We have been able to refine that as we have grown as a brand. Yes, you still see the ‚Äėaggressive‚Äô skulls and snakes that we began our journey with, but we have treated and re-designed them in a way that more reflects who we are today.‚ÄĚ

Reflecting on the impact design has on customer experience, Jon Allen, Co-Founder and Creative Director, says, ‚ÄúOnyx‚Äôs branding and packaging focuses on sensory experience, not just visual elements. How can our packaging convey the hard work contained inside the box? We want to set the right expectations that you are opening something truly unique. Because of that, we use embossing, debossing, and soft touch sustainable materials. It leaves an impact.‚ÄĚ

Whether you have experienced our passion for design in one of our cafes or simply through a box of coffee, we want to say thank you for joining us these past ten years. As we move forward into the future, the world of specialty coffee will continue to evolve, and we hope to continue to play a part in influencing where it will go through intentional efforts and design. One thing you can always expect from us is an unyielding drive to preserve quality, transparency, and honesty in all of our practices, from the coffee we source to the visual identity of our branding. Here’s to ten more years!


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