In an insightful interview with coffee expert, Lani Kingston, explore the unique spaces and cutting-edge design created for indulging coffee around the world.
Over the past few years, the world of coffee has kickstarted a movement of cultural and creative influence. From unique jute bags, logos, or merchandise—cafes, roasters, and coffee shops around the globe are experimenting with new ways to provide spaces and product packaging that stand out from the crowd.
Designing Coffee explores what it takes to curate some of the most innovative and eclectic coffee shops of today, from brand identity and packaging, through to interior design and architecture. We sat down with Lani Kingston, coffee and food writer, and co-editor of Spill the Beans and Designing Coffee - to discuss her latest gestalten release.
Q. Hi Lani, can you introduce yourself to those who may not know you?
A. I’m Lani Kingston, a coffee and food writer, consultant, teacher, and food and beverage brand builder. I am originally from the great coffee city of Melbourne, Australia, but got into the coffee industry first while living in London. I have since lived in New York, Singapore, and now, Portland, Oregon, but have travelled to dozens of countries on coffee contracts or to research coffee culture.
Through my consulting work I have helped set up companies and brands in the food and beverage (f&b) space all around the world, and currently run a small agency where we help f&b companies, individuals, and start-ups set-up, streamline, or expand. I have written four books on coffee, my first being the best-seller How To Make Coffee: The Science Behind the Bean, which is now available in 14 languages and is a common staple textbook in barista training academies worldwide. I also run the education program for Coffee Fest in the USA, and teach the anthropology of coffee at Portland State University.
Q. What are some of the most exciting, and innovative ways you have seen coffee shops brand their products, and their spaces?
A. Some of the most pleasing customer experiences are due to innovative branding and design. Some coffee brands - like Bandit, in Petaling Jaya, featured in this book - take their brand and treat it like a theme, imbuing characteristics throughout their space and products. For me, the future of good coffee design is all about coherent design principles - not consistency. Deciding on a logo, font, and color palette is not enough! The best branded coffee shops of today use coherent design to create a living, breathing brand, in which all elements are harmonious but flexible enough to adapt to all needs and applications.
Q. Do you have a favourite spot featured in Designing Coffee, and if so - what makes this spot unique in your eyes?
A. I’m heavily biased, but I’d have to say Fritz Coffee in Seoul. I am lucky enough to know some of the owners and have been a big fan of their whimsical design for years - my house is filled with their beautiful merchandise. Run by a collective of renowned coffee professionals and a baker, they have created a brand that is indicative of a new Korean coffee culture, tying together Korean nostalgia, kitsch, sharp graphic design, and a serious passion for professional-level specialty coffee. Plus, their baked goods are wonderful.
They, in all honesty, were the inspiration behind this book - I first came across their designs years ago and they opened my eyes to how expansive the design process can be when building a coffee brand - it’s so much more than just building a logo, designing a coffee bag, and deciding what chairs to put in your shop. You are building a personality - and Fritz is one of the biggest characters in coffee today.
Q. What does our current relationship with coffee look like, and how do you see it evolving in the future?
A. We are heading into a new world of coffee, where many consumers have a much more advanced knowledge (from the bean itself, through to how to roast and brew it) than in the past. The ease of access to information and high level training is increasing proficiency across the industry and consumer alike. As a result, more and more people are brewing excellent quality coffee at home. Equipment innovators and coffee brands are responding to this by creating at-home tools and products that enhance the at-home coffee experience, or bring convenience into the specialty realm to allow people to brew specialty coffee with ease.
The coffeeshops of the future (and even, to a degree, the coffeeshops of today) need to attract consumers to their spaces by offering much more than just a good cup of coffee. Coffee shops have, for centuries, been a perfect example of a ‘third place’ (a term coined by sociologist Ray Oldenburg, describing a low barrier to entry community space outside of the home or workplace, where conversation and connection is imperative). Today, they are building on this idea of a community gathering place to respond to societal demands - they are offering expanded food menus, staying open into the night, and functioning as remote workspaces. I believe they will continue to develop as social hubs, with the market saturation leading to only the most innovative, well designed, and well run surviving.
We will see more automation and artificial intelligence perfecting the quality of the cup - raising the bar for coffee purveyors worldwide. We will also see environmental changes in producing countries affecting the species and varieties of coffees we will drink (60% of wild arabica is set to be extinct by 2050, leading to a lowered diversity in species that puts the cultivated crop at risk) and the resulting flavor profile expectations shall shift and adapt, expanding our understanding of what a ‘good coffee’ tastes like. We will see more and more diverse influences into our coffee scene as aficionados grow tired with the same third wave beverages and culture they have experienced for the last few decades. Interest in how coffee is brewed and served in other countries is expanding, along with the exploration of different ingredients and add-ins that can work with the coffee bean.
Q. This is your second book with gestalten, after Spill the Beans. How was your experience in creating Designing Coffee with gestalten?
A. This will be my fourth book on coffee, and the first time I have worked with the same publisher twice! I was thrilled with how gestalten delivered on my third book, as that was the result of around 6 years of research, travel, and work. Spill the Beans is my pride and joy and I was very fussy about which publisher I took this concept to! I knew gestalten for delivering beautiful and thoughtful books, so they were the perfect partner. I was excited to get to work with my editor, Lars, for a second time, and I absolutely love that gestalten allows me to co-edit as well as write these books. They are a labor of love and I enjoy getting to be a part of every step of the process. My first publisher allowed little author feedback after text submission, but I was able to work collaboratively with the gestalten team on both of my books with them and as a result, they’ve turned out exactly as I had dreamed.
Q. What are you most excited for readers to discover when reading this book?
A. I’ve been consulting with coffee and food businesses for around a decade, and have traveled a lot internationally for this work. Around the world, I’d discover exciting and innovative coffee brands and shops that inspired me. I’d take photographs and add them to my collection to inspire clients when working on their own brands and spaces.
Within this book is a compilation of some of the most beautiful and inspirational coffee brands and spaces I have come across. Along with informational chapters that summarize some of the knowledge I have gained through my coffee brand building experience, I believe this book is a must have for anyone looking to build a coffee or food brand, or for any coffee lover who is looking for a great design led coffee table book.
Celebrating unique spaces, such as the minimalist, tea-house-like coffeeshops of Japan or communist themed cafes in Vietnam, Designing Coffee provides advice on how to create a unique space of your own. Discover more today.