gwt-retail-brand-strategy-and-design

Great Wall Tea Co.

Great Wall Tea Co. is a magnetizing little tea shop that displays its selection of over 150 teas from around the world in a conceptual and architecturally considered retail space.

In addition to the brand strategy and identity design, Exhibit A: Design Group was challenged to conceptualize a graphic solution for 568 tea containers prominently displayed in the small retail location.

Great Wall Tea Co.’s long and narrow 155 square foot retail space was designed by Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio to resemble a bar where patrons lounge, sip and socialize. Customers can enjoy a cup of tea at the custom walnut counter, or order to go. Due to the lack of space and a modest budget, the tea shop’s interior architecture utilizes its long back wall for its staggered array of 568 standard tea containers, which are magnetized bottom-first to create tea storage.

Having collaborated on various successful projects in the past, Marianne Amodio Architecture Studio approached Exhibit A: Design Group to develop the brand strategy and identity for Great Wall Tea Co.’s retail space. One of the main design considerations was the creative visual potential of the 568 front-facing tin canister lids.

Informed by our research on the widening tea-drinking demographic, we set forth to build a brand platform that appealed to both aging baby boomers switching over to tea from coffee, and the influx of younger tea drinkers with more modern tastes. The tea bar was located in a food-centric location so the brand also needed to appeal to foodies.

We focused on the aesthetic possibilities of the large wall as the catalyst for the brand design. We knew the wall had the potential to infuse the small retail space with a rich brand narrative that customers would be attracted to and potentially spread by word of mouth.

After measuring several different concept directions, we found inspiration from the most obvious source: the tea shop’s name. The result is the great wall of tea… cups. For several months we had our client collect a varied array of teacups and saucers that we then photographed on contrasting background patterns and textures. The images were produced into stickers applied to the top of the tins. The final product, an awe-inspiring and colourful wall of almost 600 canisters, has maximum visual appeal that is also highly emotional. Beyond fuelling conversations among tea drinkers at the bar, the branded space drives customers to do more than just purchase tea—it compels them to also become ambassadors of the brand and tell their friends.

The Great Wall Tea Co.’s logo is a playful representation of the ultimate tea shop cliché, the tea kettle, handpainted with a stain effect using colours inspired by tea stains. It is also inspired by the repetition in the retail space and of various sized circular forms in the tea world—from tea stains to saucers to tea infusers. We developed a modular identity that is robust enough to be further explored using various shapes or icons depending upon the communication. The endless variations allow the brand to continue to evolve and delight by changing its own ‘flavour.’ For packaging, we repeated hand drawn tea leaf icons to compose a kettle shape for the main graphic symbol and established a simple label program for the three main types of tea: herbal, black, and green. The variety or flavour is easily handwritten or stamped in by the merchant.

One of the long-term goals of the brand strategy was to create a distinctive yet cohesive retail image that will allow our client to possibly develop a franchise or multi-location brand model in the future. The modular graphic identity is adaptable to limitless variations and ensures the brand will continue to be perceived as engaging, dynamic and fresh over time.

The store wall is highly impactful, inspiring customer-initiated conversation and frequent social media engagement. The small space has been featured on highly acclaimed architecture blogs including archdaily.com, decoist.com, and retaildesignblog.net

GDUSA American Package Design Awards: Winner, Packaging Series, 2014
GDUSA American Graphic Design Awards: Packaging – Winner, 2013

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