The Underground

Brand identity for Brown University’s only student-run coffee shop

November 2021

Solo Project

→ Visual Identity Design

→ Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, After Effects

The Underground is a not-for profit, student-run and operated coffee shop at Brown University, located in the basement of the Campus Center on the Main Green. It was established in 2015 to build a welcoming community space offering affordable, high-quality coffee. It started out as a scrappy, volunteer-run, pop-up cafe limited to drip coffee and tea. Over the years, the menu has expanded alongside a growing team of passionate students who have built it into a full-scale, financially self-sufficient operation. I was a barista at the Underground during those initial years, and it holds a special place in my heart for giving me some of my closest friends and fondest memories.

When the Underground re-opened in October 2021, having been inactive since March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I saw an opportunity to evolve its identity. A significant portion of the Brown community, as well as the new cohort of baristas, had never experienced the Underground. The goal of the branding strategy was to build a consistent identity that would be recognized across the Brown community and maintained by future generations of baristas. I drew from my personal experience as well as those of past and current baristas to design a robust identity that maintained the Underground’s original character and founding principles.

The core tenets of the Underground’s philosophy are craftsmanship, warmth, community, and grit. We’re a scrappy group that’s committed to creating an inclusive and supportive community space while providing exceptional coffee that’s affordable to all students, and we’re proud of the team behind the operation.

The original logo and wordmark that were created when the Underground first opened in 2015 were drawn by hand–a by-product of building a coffee shop from the ground up with a bare-bones team of coffee enthusiasts and no visual designers. I elected to keep it that way, embracing its DIY, scrappy look and respecting the original vision.

The logo features stairs, alluding to the Underground’s basement location. The arrangement of the staircases on all sides of the wordmark creates the impression of spatial ambiguity and being lost in time, as caffeine-fueled students sometimes feel. The logo appears in a perfect circle shape, visually referencing a cup of coffee or a doughnut (the first food offering on the Underground menu).

The primary colors, white and deep blue-black, represent the simple appreciation of a freshly-brewed perfect cup of coffee that drove the Underground’s founding.

The bright colors of the secondary palette represent the vibrant community behind the Underground and recall the distinctive colors throughout the space—the red cafe chairs and orange accent wall.

The tertiary color palette rounds out the Underground’s identity with flavor notes of bold espresso and subtle lavender, echoing our signature lavender latte.

The primary typeface is Office Code Pro, a customized typeface that adapted classic monospace conventions to address legibility issues. Its design is precise and intentional, reflecting the attention to detail and craftsmanship of coffee-brewing.

The secondary typeface is Savate, a reverse-contrast typeface inspired by hand-lettered forms. Its distinctive calligraphic yet geometric style gives it personality, providing balance to the uniformity of Office Code Pro, and the texture of the horizontal stress provides an unexpected, amiable flair.
Visual Identity Design