Not your average cup of joe: Meet the Milwaukee native behind Colectivo Coffee’s iconic designs

NOW: Not your average cup of joe: Meet the Milwaukee native behind Colectivo Coffee’s iconic designs

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) — Every single day, dozens of Milwaukeeans in search of their caffeine fix walk through the doors of Colectivo Coffee to get their brew and go about their day.

But in the back of the store, behind all of the heavy machines and offices, sits Kevin Callahan — a man who isn’t your average cup of joe.

While you probably don’t know Callahan, if you’ve ever been a Colectivo customer, you definitely know his work.

“I’ve created the brand and managed the brand for Colectivo Coffee,” Callahan told CBS 58’s Ellie Nakamoto-White. “Go into the cafes, any two-dimensional object should hopefully represent some of my work.”

The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee grad became a part of the Colectivo team nearly three decades ago.

“I started 24 years ago as the driver. The one driver we had,” Callahan remembered.

Over the years, he worked his way up to the design team.

“I didn’t use a computer growing up and I didn’t use a computer in college. They sent me to school to learn how to use one and to learn how to use art programs that would go on a computer,” Callahan said.

From there, the rest became history as he now leads the team as senior graphic designer.

“It’s the longest I’ve done anything,” Callahan said. “I feel very proud of the artwork I do for Colectivo Coffee.”

Callahan distinctly remembers designing the iconic cursive scrawl that’s now the company’s main logo.

“I took a big pad of paper, and I went home. It was over the Christmas season, and I sat at the dining room table with my big pad and Sharpie, and I just decided to start signing the name ‘Colectivo’ as if it was my signature over and over and over and over, figuring that eventually it would get some personality to it like a signature does,” Callahan said. “Whenever I look at our word mark or any word mark, I think about what could be changed about it, and on ours I feel pretty confident that we got it right.”

His creative touches are everywhere in the store — from the shirts and hats to the posters decorating the walls.

He’s also responsible for the brightly colored images on the black coffee bags, drawing inspiration from the very people behind the beloved beans.

“I’ll find out where a coffee is from and I’ll delve into the art and culture and everyday life of the people that create the coffee,” Callahan said. “We work very hard at creating a great product that’s inside the bag and my job is to create the outside of the bag to reflect the inside.”

Most of his designs start by using pen and paper before transitioning over to the computer screen.

“I’m constantly squeezing and skewing and pushing and pulling them to get them just the way I want them,” Callahan said. “In some ways everybody sees our artwork so it’s really important that it’s exciting, vibrant and as much as any painting could be.”

And although the company is turning 30 this year, the ideas he brews are as fresh as a cup in the morning.

“I love working in art and I love working with coffee. I want to make sure that my hand comes through in that final artwork,” Callahan said. “We want people when they see our cup from a block away, to see it and say, wow, ok so that’s Colectivo.”

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