Bowen has been thinking about Patricia for over 13 years. He may not have always known her name, but he knew that his passion and devotion to coffee needed a home. Our workshop with Bowen and business partner Pip revealed a need to avoid an accepted, and overtly complex, coffee list offering — they wanted to serve it straight: black, white or filtered. The cookie-cut Melbourne coffee shop would thankfully be scrapped for an ethos driven by simplicity and attention to detail.
Our naming sessions resulted in the adoption of Bowen’s grandma’s name, Patricia, leaving all other clever word-play to fill the cafe in different ways. We’d set the tone with a classic hand-crafted logo guilded on the front door’s window, but then tuck it away, only allowing it to occasionally grace the takeaway cups or tags. A broadly spaced Neutra typeface would come to the fore everywhere else, originating from the hand of a deco architect and typifying the period. Neutra would also take the leading role on some beautifully functional letter-pressed coasters, perforated to transform into business cards and labels.
On the premises
As far as we know it was originally a lawyer’s office. The entire building has recently been completely renovated (at the same time as Patricia was being built) to accommodate small law practices and individuals.
On the style of design
We approached the brand with reflection to functional elegance. The style is driven by simplicity and attention to detail, stripping elements back and not cluttering the space by ‘over’ designing. We wanted to create a memorable experience for the patrons — part of this challenge was not to simply put a ‘Patricia’ logo on every part of this journey. We solved this by creating a range of graphic devices and simple intriguing language (‘Sunshine’, ‘Standing Room Only’ etc.) that were part of the identity, including the custom overlapping border and varying logotypes.
On special materials
From the beginning we worked closely with the interior architects at Foolscap to make sure our choice of materials was inline with the overall aesthetic of the cafe. For instance, an unbleached boxboard was chosen for the coasters that perforate to become business cards.
This material is both aesthetically pleasing and functional. We also came up with a clever way to package the cups Bowen sells at Patricia by simply utilising a long rectangular piece of paper folded around the cup and saucer to secure the objects together.
For the main menu board white rubber bands were sourced to hold the A1 size paper to the board. This detail was also implemented to hold sheets of newspaper against the custom built sideboard at the back of the cafe. The frame marque appears as gold guiding on the windows, another subtle detail that quietly ties the branding together. This is an ongoing collaboration as we are currently designing a range of bespoke packaging for their takeaway coffee.
On the uniforms
They are smart and classic with a neutral colour palette that ties into the aesthetic of the venue. The key feature of the uniforms is the leather aprons that are not only functional but in keeping with the character of Patricia.
On the star of the show
Coffee is the star, and was the main reason why Bowen started Patricia. It’s served straight: black, white or filtered. Food is available but limited to a small range of fresh cakes, pastries and donuts.
On the Patricia vibe
The vibe is youthful, fun, and warm. It’s unpretentious and customer-focused which all ties into Bowen offering a product that is honest and made with care. No detail is spared or overlooked.
Che Douglas of Beyond the Pixels is now head of design at the Wall Street Journal.