A small design firm here was recently hired by an unusual client with an unconventional request: The Ethiopian government commissioned Brandhouse to come up with a logo that will make consumers feel like they are drinking a luxury when they have Ethiopian coffee. This month, the Ethiopian government is releasing the logos for three varieties of Ethiopian coffee beans that it hopes will eventually appear from the burlap sacks that are used to transport coffee beans to coffee cups in cafes. It is the first time the country has introduced a brand for its major export.
The logos are the culmination of years of sometimes-bitter wrangling between Ethiopia, British charity Oxfam, Starbucks and the National Coffee Association, a trade association for U.S. coffee importers, wholesalers, retailers and roasters. The Ethiopian government has argued that companies such as Starbucks should sign licensing agreements for its coffee. Oxfam supported its cause and last year, the Seattle coffee chain reached a deal with Ethiopia to license, market and promote Harar, Yirgacheffe, and Sidamo coffee.
After 30 odd years in the global design industry opening doors to new and frontier markets through exploratory user research, concept design, and innovation strategies, Niti returned to academia as a student to pursue a PhD in Product Development at Aalto University's Design Factory. Her dissertation looks at the contribution of design methods to foster agency and capacity for innovation as a resilience strategy to shocks at the micro-level of the individual. Her research approach has expanded the multidisciplinary lens of viability, feasibility, and desirability to a transdisciplinary one where participants generate the actionable knowledge for their own innovation pathways.