Has maximalist coffee bag design replaced minimalism?

Aidan Gant
June 1, 2022
Has maximalist coffee bag design replaced minimalism?

The global impact of the Great Recession in 2009 saw the rise of minimalist lifestyles and product packaging design. 

This was largely due to the public collectively turning away from opulence in all areas of life. As a result, rigid lines, angular geometry, empty space, and muted colour palettes became popular design elements used across many brands. 

The explosive popularity of specialty coffee during 2010 further fuelled the rise of minimalism design. Many specialty roasters saw this as an opportunity to eliminate immaterial packaging details to place a stronger focus on the coffee itself. 

However, as the market becomes saturated with minimalist designs, many brands are now choosing to go in the opposite direction in order to stand out. Maximalist coffee bag design is rapidly rising in popularity, as younger consumers begin to crave a kaleidoscope of design and colour. 

Read on to find out more about the increasing popularity of maximalist coffee bag design.

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Sign up
White multilayer kraft paper maximalist coffee bag design with green, brown, and yellow illustrations of llama, hand, and coffee cup.

What is maximalist design?

When it comes to specialty coffee, the majority of consumers have only ever seen packaging that conveys sophisticated lines, muted colours, and blank spaces.

The clean, light brown parchment of kraft paper, coupled with a textual logo or imprint across the front, has dominated specialty coffee design for the last decade. 

In a further bid to keep packaging design as sparse as possible, some coffee bags may have a QR code. This directs customers to the brands’ website where they can view origin details and roast profiles. 

On the other hand, maximalist design leans more towards the celebration of opulence and layered complexity. Where minimalist designs favour emptiness that draws attention to the subject material, in contrast, the maximalist look is all about bold statements and repeated patterns and iconography.

Essentially, maximalist design achieves a sense of order through the careful selection of bold, saturated colours and repeating patterns. Some of the best lifestyle examples would be fleur-de-lis feature walls and the return to maximalist design in fashion

A further distinction between minimalism and maximalist design is the amount of information available on the packaging. 

Minimalist designs tend to let the product speak for itself and give nothing else away. However, the full story of the brand and its creator is likely to be spotted across the busy architecture of a maximalist design. 

For instance, Mexican Boxha Coffee incorporates ancient culture into its branding, using illustrations of many Mayan gods and prominent figures such as the jaguar. These are combined with bold type and vibrant colours that are used across all product branding.

Maximalist design in retail

In the realm of interior design, the maximalist aesthetic has become popular in recent years. Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari are two of the leading designers responsible for the recent success of maximalist design in the home decorating sector. Their bold creations draw influence from Italian postmodernism and 1950s American housewife nostalgia. 

That said, with an overload of bold patterns and whacky accessories, it is easy to become dizzy. To remedy this, owner of BLDC Design, Dawn Cook suggests focusing on only one or two “wow” factors when it comes to design.

When it comes to coffee packaging, this can help create a focal point and direct consumer attention to vital information, such as origins or flavour notes. 

Maximalist design has also been prevalent in fashion – particularly in the world of haute couture. Noted fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent flew the flag for maximalist design in the 1970s, and his rich colour palette was echoed by Christian Lacroix in the 1980s. Furthermore, grand baroque patterns were used by Versace in the nineties. 

In more recent years, maximalist thinking can be seen in the work of Alessandro Michele at Gucci, as a backlash against the minimalism of Calvin Klein and Giorgio Armani.

The ethos behind maximalist design is one of magnificence and grandiosity: specifically that more is more and bigger is better.

Red multilayer kraft paper maximalist coffee bag design on pouch with white and yellow label with illustrations of woman carrying plant on head, label shows Malawi arabica coffee.

Why is maximalist coffee bag design effective?

The spleen and modernist tones of minimalist design seemed the perfect fit for coffee bags designs during the first decades of the 21st century. 

Simultaneously elegant and utilitarian, the designs were a perfect companion for a more sophisticated specialty coffee sector. By 2020, the “less is more” look had saturated coffee packaging in supermarkets and cafes worldwide.

This may provide specialty coffee roasters with an opportunity to introduce a new style of coffee bags to the market.

Some consumers may be tired of the industrial chic look, and a bright bag design similar to that of Los Angeles’ Couplet Coffee may help roasters renew interest in their product.

Furthermore, this invigorating style may help shift the stigma of exclusivity that often surrounds specialty coffee. This, in turn, may help the sector appear more inviting and accessible to consumers who may have previously felt excluded.

White multilayer kraft paper coffee pouch with black single line illustrations.

Has it replaced minimalist design?

It is clear that both minimalist and maximalist designs can create distinctive coffee packaging, as they allow brands to be bold and expressive.

It would be presumptuous to say maximalist coffee bag design is replacing minimalism, as the two design principles have coexisted since the seventies. 

Often, when there is an increase in the number of minimalist designs, there is a consistent counterbalance of maximalist packaging. Essentially, when the market is saturated with one style, most brands will turn to the opposite in order to stand out among competitors. 

This is providing roasters with a unique opportunity to be the first to reintroduce maximalist coffee bags into the market. Certainly, trends in interior design seem to be heading that way, with the prevailing wind blowing in favour of the instagrammable displays of designers like Bjarne Melgaard and Katie Stout.

Additionally, younger generations consistently share interesting and eye-catching products across social media platforms. This could further help roasters reach a wider audience and boost brand awareness without adding to marketing costs. 

As far as coffee bags go, a maximalist overhaul could be the best way to get ahead of the pack right now and add some jaunty ebullience to packaging. 

Whether you’re thinking about changing your packaging design, or are just starting your design journey, MTPak Coffee can help you achieve your desired packaging goals.

We offer specialty coffee roasters a range of sustainable coffee bags for specialty coffee roasters. Made from environmentally-friendly materials such as kraft paper, rice paper or PLA, our coffee bags are recyclable, compostable and biodegradable.

Furthermore, we use water-based (flexographic) inks, which are low in volatile organic compounds (VOC). This means that while they are highly resistant to abrasion, water, and heat, they are also compostable and easily removable for recycling, helping create a fully sustainable product.

They can be customised with any of our pouches to reflect the quality of your coffee, both on the inside and outside of your packaging.

For more information on sustainable packaging and design services, contact our team. 

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter

Sign up

MTPak recommends