By Sandy Nelson
For fourteen years, I worked as a senior graphic designer in the global creative studio at Starbucks (1997-2011). I was among the first group of designers hired when Starbucks created an in-house design studio. It was a real privilege to be a part of the team who gave Starbucks its new identity as we were expanding out of the U.S. and into Japan and Europe and other markets.
In 2001, our group was tasked with re-designing all the coffee stamps, the visual identity for each whole bean coffee blend. I was assigned to work on the new identity of Caffè Verona (the coffee of romance), previously known as “Jake’s Blend” and “80/20 Blend.” I spent several weeks working on concepts, from evolving the look of the 1997 stamp to using photography to capture the essence of the city of Verona, Italy. One of my ideas involved creating an image of a stolen moment of a couple in love from the distance. I thought that seeing a couple, from a distance on an old bridge, might evoke old world Italy.
In order to create my concept I needed a couple and a vintage bridge. Because of the very short timeline, I called my sister and her husband for a photoshoot. We selected the Arboretum brick bridge near the University of Washington. I met my sister, Stephanie and her husband, and I photographed them on the bridge. I was standing below, with a camera filled with film, and immediately went to develop the shots at Walgreens. Then I did my magic. I made the photo appear older, added a red rose block print pattern I created as well as an image of a handwritten love letter and a Starbucks postal ‘cancel’ stamp to overlay the photo — all to evoke romance, love, old Italy, and the beauty of sending love letters.
Caffè Verona is and was a labor of love. My sister and her husband appeared on stamps, coffee packaging, posters and merchandise ALL over the world. Just last year, I saw a poster of the Verona stamp in the Amsterdam airport. My sister was with me so of course I took a photo of her next to her image on the poster. People have wondered who they are and where the bridge is...it all started in Seattle, as a concept that got approved quickly and has lived on. The current Verona packaging still has the rose pattern artwork, but everything else has evolved. Here’s to Caffè Verona, the coffee of love!