Behind the Scenes of the Design Process: Limited Release Boxes

By now, you've seen the beautiful boxed coffees in the shop and on the Analog Coffee Bar side. We released these at the start of the holiday season and we realized we didn't give a full explanation of them and that they aren't only for the holiday season but the packaging for the coffees you enjoy on the Analog Coffee Bar.

We wanted to share the process of how these boxes came to life and all the hard work put in by the team in making them. We feel this story is one that needs to be shared. So let's start from the beginning. 


In the Fall of 2016, Carabello Coffee completed a 22-month long expansion of our retail space that included the addition of a 6 seat, intimate bar we call Analog Coffee Bar.  This bar is separate from our original cafe space, and is dedicated to curating unique and vibrant coffee experiences that feature our best and most unique coffees. It has since established itself as one of the premier coffee experiences in the Midwest.  

However, amidst all the hard work to get Analog open, there was one casualty: the coffee packaging.  When we opened the bar, we were out of creative energy and simply began packaging the coffees served at that bar in a nondescript, hand-stamped Kraft paper bag.  

And for the past two years, the irony has been that our best and most prized coffees, many of which score in the 87-90+ range, were being sold in a package that did little to reflect their value.  In the Summer of 2018, we set out to change all of that, and to rethink our approach to how we treat and package these high quality coffees.


We decided to cast a new vision for the coffees we serve at Analog Coffee Bar. Going forward they would become a Limited Release series of coffees, packaged so as to not only stand out from the coffees we sold in flat-bottom, side-gusseted bags in our cafe, but also in a way that would match the premium quality of the coffees inside.  We aimed to create a package that would enhance our customers’ appreciation for and enjoyment of the brewed coffee they were purchasing; something they would want to hold onto, display or even reuse in their home.

The Process | Pt 1. Inspiration//

In discussing how we would set these Limited Release coffees apart from the rest of our offerings, we drew inspiration from the world of art, where artist prints are often signed and numbered.  To create a sense of exclusivity, we decided to assign a number to each coffee in the series, beginning with 01 and going on to 99. We further decided to roast and sell no more than 100 packages of each coffee in this Limited Release series, and to date and number each as it was roasted and packaged.

We also drew inspiration from the boxes that Counter Culture has been using the past few years to help offset their limited release coffees.  While we had never conceptualized a box design, we believed a box would be a great way to create an immediate distinction from the bagged coffees already available in our cafe and website.  

We further were inspired by the typefaces, textures, and rich color choices of many of the worlds luxury brands.  As we considered what it would be like to hold the luxury brand equivalent of a coffee package, we decided that the texture of what is in the buyer’s hand is very important.  We decided to coat the box with a matte varnish, and to use a spot UV gloss overlay to add texture and visual depth. We decided to minimize the design on the box itself, and to use only two colors - navy and white.  We purchased two font families we believed would compliment each other and connote quality. We further decided to use four rich and bold colors on our labels, to bring in a pop of rich color and texture.

Finally, we were inspired by the look and feel of bourbon bottle labels.  As the first stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, we are surrounded by distillers with a rich history of using texture, depth and high quality printing on their labels as a way of creating perceived value in their packaging.  Our hometown printer, Steinhauser, Inc., prints for many of our State’s distillers, and so we partnered with them to develop a foil label using a brand new technology that would really pop off of the matte finish box.


The Process | Pt 2. Mood Boards and Packaging Exploration //

As with all design projects, we created mood boards at first to help define the direction we wanted to go. The keywords that informed this process were:




Relate back to Analog

Navy Blue

Subtle Pattern


Contrast from box and labels


With that, I began to look at other boxes that matched these keywords. I was really attracted to designs that were very detailed but presented them subtly. I came up with three different styles with the moodboards and we choose the direction based on which one we felt worked best. We landed on a the "Dark and Bold" moodboards. 

Once we landed with the direction of the Dark & Bold mood board, I went onto the sketching/ideation phase of the project. Which was so much fun to do. I sat in the Analog Bar and looked at all the textures that define that space. The wood of the menus and espresso machine, the shiny tile of the backsplash behind the bar, and how the space is so intimate and welcoming. While in that space I looked at how the pattern in the backsplash of the bar is something that would have a direct tie back to this space and I knew then I wanted that to be on the box somewhere. When you take this coffee home, the hope is that it reminds you of the time you had at the Analog Bar and you will be able to create a new moment with others in your home. Not to mention, get you excited to make coffee for yourself and guests at your home.

The Process | Pt 2. Color //

Once we decided on the Navy for the overall box color we needed to pick label colors. What colors can we introduce to our brand colors without straying too far away and aren’t identical to what we presently have? We wanted 4 rotating colors and a special color for our Grand Cru offerings. We wanted these 4 colors to pop off the boxes and draw your attention, so we choose some vibrant ones.


These colors have a great contrast to the navy and make the whole box pop from a distance. When thinking about the label colors and the box, we also wanted that contrast of matte and glossy. With help from our pals at Steinhauser, we asked what paper to use for the labels themselves and they suggested a metallic paper. This would help them stand out on the box and shelf as well as make the colors pop significantly more.


The Process | Pt 2. Labels //

In discussing how we would set these Limited Release coffees apart from the rest of our offerings, we drew inspiration from the world of art, where artist prints are often signed and numbered.  To create a sense of exclusivity, we decided to assign a number to each coffee in the series, beginning with 01 and going on to 99. We further decided to roast and sell no more than 100 packages of each coffee in this Limited Release series, and to date and number each as it was roasted and packaged.


The Process | Pt 2. Fonts //

As we are evolving with each year, we also wanted to expand our library of fonts. While exploring what fonts to use, I went to and looked at type combinations. I wanted something that would fit into our current family but also be timeless. The two we landed on are Archer and Verlag. These two families pair so nicely together. (if you’re a type nerd like myself, seeing these two together on a project makes your heart swell.) You can read more on Archer here and Verlag here. These two are elegantly designed and just fit with what the Analog Bar is creating.  


Pt 3. | How does this reflect our company values? 

Justin and Emily Carabello started Carabello Coffee in 2009 in their garage using a one-pound home roaster.  For the first 4 years, every bag of coffee was sold in hand-stamped, signed, Kraft paper bags by either Justin or Emily.  As we have grown to a staff of 18, we have endeavored to never lose the timeless personal touch of something hand-crafted in our packaging, decor, signage and material choices.  

We hold several core values, one of which is to heighten people’s love of and appreciation for quality coffee.  We believe this packaging helps us heighten our customers’ appreciation for what is inside the package.

We also strive to deliver the highest quality coffee experiences we can, in a friendly, accessible, personal way.  We believe building genuine, long-term relationships built on trust is the most significant part of owning and running a community business.  In that context, we believe that one significant way this packaging reflects our brand is that we were 9 years old before we created a high quality package that costs us $1.80 before we even put coffee inside of it.  

Rather than hoping to win people’s business with high-end packaging (and the higher costs associated with them) from the start, we won their trust by sourcing and roasting coffees for years that were far superior to the packaging in which they were placed.  The end result has been that our customer base was thrilled and excited to have the heightened experience of these coffees in this packaging. The day they were released, December 1, 2018, was one of our highest grossing days on the retail side of our business.  We believe that is largely due to the fact that our customers believe that we will deliver an experience that will exceed the expectations they have of what’s inside the packaging.

This packaging reflects our brand by being timeless, showing quality over quantity, and maintaining our promise to always source exceptional coffees.  We source, roast, and serve our coffees with care and compassion.

Part of what makes Carabello great is the fact we build direct relationships with as many farmers as humanly possible.  We are actively giving to those we work with in our global and local communities. With the addition of these limited release coffees, we are able to give back more to those communities.

Finally, the packaging reflects our relational approach to working as a team and to using in-house talent.  While there are bound to be some things we must outsource, we endeavor to empower and use the people on our team to create what we produce as much as possible.  We place a high value on the satisfaction of going through the creative process together, as a team. When we put these boxes on our shelf, we were deeply connected to the entire process, thus making our customers’ excitement for them all the more fulfilling.  There is nothing quite as rewarding as a job well done and appreciated by those who love you.

We are incredibly proud of the work Justin and Steph put into this project. They spent countless hours planning and revising to get to this final product. We're so excited that they will be around for quite some time and the hope is they inspire you to continue drinking exceptional coffees and appreciate the work put in from start to finish.