Rob Patterson is the owner of Ratiofarm, a Chicago design house known for its logos, illustrations, and vibrant graphics. Formerly, Patterson worked as the in-house creative director at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a coffee roasting company and retailer based in Chicago. Founded in 1995, Intelligentsia is a direct-trade purveyor of fine coffees and teas from around the world. During his tenure at Intelligentsia, Patterson used design and illustration to translate the brand’s stories into collectible works of art.
Since 2009, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea has hosted an annual week-long Extraordinary Coffee Workshop known as ECW. Each year, the event brings together Intelligentsia’s direct-trade partners in a coffee-producing location in search of new ways to create a better beverage. The partners from around the world study and share different coffee production approaches, ideas, and practices.
To brand the event and reflect its unique locales, Patterson created a logo and poster for each event. “The event in Guatemala was the seventh and largest,” Patterson recalled. Expecting over 70 producer partners from 17 different countries, Patterson was compelled to connect Intelligentsia and ECW with the location. “I had to figure out the best way to tell the story.”
The Mayan creator god, Itzamna, gave Patterson the necessary inspiration. “It seemed a perfect choice to feature,” he said. “Especially given that Intelligentsia had named its original coffees from Guatemala after Itzamna years earlier. It was a nice tie-in.”
With Intelligentsia’s Itzamna brand imagery as a basis, Patterson customized the illustration with his own spin for ECW. “I gave it an update, made it more interesting, added some vibrancy, texture, color, and drama,” he said. “Since it would be used as a poster, I gave it a psychedelic nod.”
Along with its colorful Mayan gods, Guatemala has the most volcanoes in the region, many of which are near the farms that Intelligentsia partners with. “I added mountain peaks and volcanic shapes to the poster’s negative space as a subtle reference,” says Patterson.
The illustration’s distinct typography, designed by Patterson, also references Guatemala’s unique topography and honors the region’s iconic culture, history, and terrain. The bold color palette also references Guatemalan culture. Patterson notes, “I love the energy and warmth that emulates from the complex, multi-colored textiles found in Guatemala.”
“The mark and poster were universally loved,” Patterson said. Many of the grower partners who attend ECW collect each year’s poster. “After the event, they take them home as a memento, frame them and put them up in their offices.”
Beyond ECW, the posters were hung in Intelligentsia retail stores. The illustration took on a life of its own when one of Intelligentsia’s exporting companies recreated the poster as a sand mandala. “Can you believe that? Patterson exclaims. “It was really cool!”