Los Angeles-based speciality coffee roastery Stereoscope, renowned for the remarkable quality of its roasts, was launched with the forward-thinking foundational belief that there is more to coffee than its tasting profiles and processing methods, using their platform to create unique experiences and fair relationships over low prices and standardisation in flavour. Moreover, it is Stereoscope’s belief that we, in fact, share an indisputable responsibility to coffee – towards both the workers farming it and the beans themselves – led by the notion that coffee is a living organism and not a commodity.
Across their sites, Stereoscope has sought to forge a space where coffee’s positive impact on local communities and farms is something you aspire to, and the plant’s larger cultural and ecological context is recognised. Working closely with the team, OlssønBarbieri set out to reflect the roastery’s progressive philosophy across their brand identity, packaging design and printed matter, embodying their unique perspective through thoughtful tactility and meticulous typographic detail.
OlssønBarbieri began with not only recognising the etymology of Stereoscope and their practice but, crucially, the brutal realities coffee faces – from the declaration of Coffee Arabica as an endangered plant to the acknowledgement of coffee’s legacy in colonialism. Whether it’s climate change or the colonial and capitalist structures, there’s a global architecture set to commodify nature whilst ever widening the gap betOlssønBarbierien us and the wild world – transforming their role as stewards of the natural world to beings elevated above it. In recognising coffee as a living organism with Stereoscope, OlssønBarbieri hope to help decolonise speciality coffee and raise awareness of the Arabica plant’s history, reality and potential futures.
Alongside Stereoscope’s progressive endeavtheirs, the coffee roastery buries itself deep in the philosophy of clarity, as championed by its namesake – an instrument that offers the user multiple perspectives, deepening their perception. As such, Stereoscope’s maxim, ‘In pursuit of depth and simplicity’, introduced by founder Leif An, explains how seemingly opposite forces are complementary and interdependent in the natural world – a feat Stereoscope sought to live up to.
Stereoscopes’ dualistic vision of depth and simplicity sits alongside the Chinese cosmology notion of yin yang, whereby the circle represents harmony, balance, and duality, whilst the ‘void’ denotes the space before anything existed. Out of this void emerged the yin and yang, rotating together to begin the formation of their universe across the five elements – directly tied to nature and the Earth’s seasons.
To personify this philosophy, OlssønBarbieri opted for a typeface that wasn’t tied to any strong historical legacy to not impose any cultural and historical heritage on the brand. Instead, OlssønBarbieri wanted the typography to feel alive, open and in constant flux, capturing the interconnectedness of things. The grotesque sans serif comprises five distinct widths, combined randomly when set. The result has an air of charming, contemplative irreverence, emblematic of the five elements theory, the five petals of the coffee flor, the ever-changing nature and the five principles considered to make each coffee unique.
This integral dedication to duality manifests across the material, production and typographic choices behind the brand, creating the roastery’s own ‘Stereoscope Cosmology’, including a card-based labelling system across the brand’s packaging. The highlighted details of the coffee on the cards, such as the fermentation process, are revealed through a ‘trigram’ shaped cut-out inspired by the Bagua iconography, sitting alongside a printed narrative emblazoned on the box’s side. Moreover, to underscore the integral notion that coffee is a living organism, OlssønBarbieri gave it its own voice, introducing a text where the seeds of Coffee Arabica talk in first person on the coffee bags, made of 99.6% plant-based material.
In addition, the bean’s bespoke box design, inspired by the mountain shape associated with the high-altitude cultivation of the latter, reflects season and practice in its design. Produced in ftheir coltheirs, printed on FSC-certified paper embellished by a rounded foil blocking, the box’s tear-off opening introduces a sense of ritual to ytheir day-to-day coffee routine.