03 October 2007

[liff, design] Dutch Bros. Rocks The Coffee Bean and the Peignot Bold

985. The stickers have showed up on cars of all kinds; you know the ones, the ones with "Dutch" in them, with the type in the funky 70's style. We see a lot that say "Dutch Playa", with the "hang loose" hand signal.

If you wondered where they came from, wonder no more; it's all part of Dutch Bros. Coffee's campaign for world domination. I, for one, welcome our new Dutch masters.

There are two Dutch drive-throughs in Portland proper: one at SE 136th and Division, hard by the pedestrian overpass, and one at SE 67th and Foster, by the Save A Lot store and the Dollar Store that used to be the Kienows and the Phoenix Drug Store. To those who thought that the demise of Coffee People as the local funky drive-through chain and dreaded the advent of Starbucks and thier burned-flavor house coffee, there is reason to rejoice.

Dutch Bros. rocks in two (count 'em) ways: one is product, and one is design.

Dutch Bros. Rocks The Bean

Regardless of how cool Dutch looks it wouldn't be even worth slowing down in front of without decent coffee, and it has that. The true measure of a coffeemonger, regardless of what else they sell, is their regular house blend–it's what they put in everything else. And Dutch Bros. Private Reserve is smooth and nice–almost as good as my personal gold standard, Allann Bros. House Blend (hey, Allan, one Beanery up in in the Metro–that's all I'm asking! Look into it! We are so there! Anyway!)

Compared to Starbucks house...well, it just doesn't compare. It just doesn't. That means that everything thier coffee goes into–the lattes, the Annihilator (just try it)–is going to be just that good. I have no complaints about this coffee.

Dutch Bros. Rocks The Font

Dutch Bros also has some interesting ways to approach thier identity. The bright, flat colors and simply-rendered graphics give a cheery start. But the way they work the typeface in is what I find most impressive.

One might look at that font and feel there's something very familiar about it. They'd be right–it's one of the most used commercial typefaces known, Peignot Bold. It was last in wild popularity in the 1970s, spurred by (amongst other things) the titles to The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and was used very thoroughly by ABC in its titles to its evening movie broadasts. It has a history which goes back to 1937, when A.M. Cassandre developed it for the French typefoundry Deberny et Peignot.

The way Dutch Bros. uses it is unafraid and constant. In the context of the flat and saturated colors and the simple graphics, it fits very well, taking a typeface that might have seemed dated in any other context and making it cheerfully funky. It really is kind of brave to use such a font in today's visual culture, because it takes a touch to use it right. Dutch Bros., either by accident or by design, did it right.

Having it on such cool stickers that are sprouting up on autos all over the place certainly helps.

Dutch Bros. Is Getting Around

They've got two Dutches in Portland, at least one we can think of in Gresham (in the Rockwood area), and we're hoping they get more in here. We aren't the only ones. Subsequently we found ourselves at Powell's Books downtown and The Wife™ still had her Dutch Bros cup in hand, and a stranger exclaimed "Hey! Does Dutch Brothers have a location downtown now?"

Sadly, no, Well, not yet, anyway. But the way they're growing, it should be any time now.

http://www.dutchbros.com (view this one through Firefox, kids; with Safari under OS X, it complains that you don't have the Flash plugin installed even if you have the Flash plugin installed)

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Ben said...

Nice! Unfortunately I was a latecomer to them. I thought they were owned indirectly by Boyd's...? (which actually is good coffee)

And now I know where yet another extinct Kienow's was located. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wow, guys your from Portland! Many good coffee places. Why go to a low quality coffee franchise? They do market well. I thought Portland would be more clued in to good coffee.

Samuel John Klein Portlandiensis said...

@ Ben: according to an article published in The Big O's business section a couple of weeks back, the founders (and presumably owners) of the company are Travis and Dane Boersma, two brothers of Dutch descent (hey!) out of Grants Pass.

They're growing like a weed: at the time of that article, the Bros just opened thier 100th franchise. Now, according to the website, they're up to 113. They franchise all thier shops; the Dutch Bros you visit is owned by a local businessperson.

It doesn't seem as though the are owned by Boyd's but they do have some relationship; When I was Googling them, I found that (sorry, don't have the link) that their GP warehouse burned down some time in the recent past and the were able to get Boyd's to roast and store beans for them while they got their home warehouse back on line.

@ anonymous: I consider myself clued-in. You didn't notice that I dropped the name of Allan Stuart's amazing coffee company? And me and The Wife™ do actually patronize some amazing local coffee places–we've been to Jim and Patty's up on NE Fremont (you might remember them as the original Coffee People).

How are my bona fides now?

I don't speak for the entire Portland coffee-drinking community (if I did, Starbucks and their raunchy, burned-tasting house would be exiled so fast it would make your head spin). But we still reserve the right to like what they like. Dutch Bros Private Reserve might not turn everybody's crank, but as far as quality, it's a nice, smooth, drinkable brew that doesn't make you say to yourself "wow, this stuff taste strong/burned/just like hot water" every time you take a sip.

It's just basic good coffee, and if that marks me as prole, then so be it.