Opinion by Richard Baird.
Modern Recreation (ModRec) is an international coffee subscription and lifestyle service. It supplies subscribers with an ever- changing selection of the very best micro-roast coffees sourced from around the world. ModRec takes pride in its positioning, rejecting artifice, pretense and mass culture in favour of what it says is a realness, spontaneity and individuality. This attitude, and the unique character of ModRec’s coffee collections, is expressed throughout its graphic identity, in the remixing of colour, type and form, and alongside intimate imagery and in the individual and straight talking tone of voice used online. This was developed by Canadian design studio Blok with the result being a cheerful blend of the modern and personable, variety and discovery.
Although graphic identities are, by their very nature, systematic, some demonstrate their system more noticeably than others. This systematic visibility is how you might characterise much of Blok’s work. The individual components that make up their graphic identities are often emphasised by an acute contrast, an aesthetic and associative opposition that elevates and makes clear their communicative intention. Rather than a singular concept, these are frequently a confluence of ideas, linked by colour, composition or theme. ModRec is similar. There is a communicative clarity at play, an intelligible intention behind many of the choices, reaching beyond their initial graphic impact. Individually, these are often familiar, yet together, contribute to a more nuanced and unique character.
While initial impressions might suggest simplicity, in solid colour, use of form, proportion and type, there is a richness that extends online and includes tone of voice and art direction. This layers a striking and immediate graphic expression with a bit more depth.
Photography and language plays with the current and intimate. They focus on emotion and relationships. The framing, absence of colour and apparent spontaneity of image gives these a photojournalist quality or edge you might associate with something like Vice. They imply an authenticity and draw parallels with the shared experience of coffee drinking.
Language takes a similar approach, favouring colloquialisms. It gives ModRec a specific and unapologetic personality. This commitment to something so definite is likely to be divisive, yet has the potential to form a more lasting connection with those that this may appeal to. A brand that sticks its flag in the ground and confidently declares and stays true to its ideology and personality can be compelling and unexpected, particularly when others are cautious and intend to be universal.
The graphic component embraces moments of abrupt contrast and visual impact, leading with a colour palette of variety, mixing kraft paper with pastels and cheerful spot colours. Type builds on this, similarly playing with variation, weaving together a visual language of modernity, importation and craft through the grouping of a sans-serif, stencil cuts and serif. While communicative and visually interesting, these function, alongside size and proportion, to set hierarchy.
Form touches on enduring and specialist coffee making equipment through simple yet recognisable silhouettes, emphasised through their proportion both in print and online. There is a push and pull between tradition and modernity, utility and craft throughout. The latter can be seen quite literally in the customisation of off-the-shelf packaging that uses a range of colourful stickers.
Contrasting elements are held together by some interesting arrangements and intersections, a logotype of monolinear strokes, broader and dividing line, and a series of grids that run over, link and frame.
When you break the ModRec graphic identity down, you begin to see the extent of the elements employed, the simplicity of system, and the visual breadth and character that this can achieve. This range of expressions, the immediate visual impact of colour and form, and residual impression of language and photography, feels well-suited to a brand of change and variety, of unexpected combinations and discoveries, and aimed at a specific group of people. It is intentionally absent some of the more universal and conventional quality cues but like the approach to copy, is firm in its intentions. More work by Blok on BP&O.
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