Stories of design across all media


Nothing ‘Bittersweet’ About Chocolate Branding

It’s been said that life’s biggest challenges can be cured with love, prayer and a little chocolate. If that’s true, Berkeley’s Stoller Design Group has certainly done its part to make the world a better place, thanks to their cross-media campaign highlighting the delectable chocolate treats served up by Oakland’s Bittersweet: The Chocolate Café.

  • Website
  • Packaging

In 2009, Bittersweet needed a website and packaging for their chocolate bars, coffees and teas. When coming up with the design, “part of it was wanting to convey that this was really exotic,” says Tia Stoller, principal and creative director.


True, chocolate does come from different parts of the globe. And the idea of sitting and sipping coffee in a café also brings to mind enticing lands. Such images as those of butterflies and a steaming cup of brew helped to set the right mood for the café’s packaging and Web presence.

Stoller Design Group also chose to use a bright color palette, with lush greens and golds, as well as browns and reds. Layering colors and textures also helped to get that theme across. “There’s a layered kind of feeling when you have something that comes from a faraway place,” Stoller says.

A Palatable Design
It took about three months to complete the website before they turned their attention to the packaging. Though it might’ve been tempting to simply copy the same elements from one to the other, Stoller Design Group wanted to make sure that would be for the best. They decided to come up with two options: one that stayed close to the design of the website, and another that went in an entirely different direction. Liking the conformity, Bittersweet “chose to stick to the context of what we had already designed for them,” says Stoller.

While they wanted the packaging to be similar to the website, it was important for certain elements to be unique.


Take the chocolate bars. Ideally, consumers would be able to recognize them as being a product of Bittersweet Café. Yet, “you want people to be able to walk up to them and distinguish between them,” says Stoller. To pull this off, they used different colors for each of the three chocolate bars. Not only could a consumer easily remember that their favorite came in the green packaging, but the different colors also increased consumer engagement. “When you see that something is a different color,” she says, “you tend to want to read the label because you want to know what you’re buying.”

They also used different words and images on the various bars to tell their story. One bar has an image of a cocoa bean. Another has the name of the place that particular type of chocolate comes from: Singaraja – a town in northern Bali, Indonesia.

On each candy wrapper, “we have a little bit of the story about that particular chocolate bar,” Stoller says. “Some of the images worked across all three bars and some were unique to that particular chocolate bar, based primarily on where it was from and what kind of chocolate it was.”


Flexibility is Key
Before beginning a cross-media campaign, you “definitely want to do visual research and see what else is out there,” she explains. “You want to think about continuity – a unique language as well as something that would be able to be used throughout.”

In the case of Bittersweet, the colors and layers can be seen on the various elements of the campaign, as can a stamp designating the chocolate “100% Delicious.”

Prior to the campaign, the Bittersweet Café had two locations. Today they have three, and their products are also sold in a number of retail stores in California, including Whole Foods. The website has helped to raise the visibility of their products and spread the word about where those one-of-a-kind chocolate bars and coffees can be found. Perhaps most importantly, the packaging has allowed the Bittersweet products to differentiate themselves from others in a crowded marketplace.

Because there are so many forms of media these days, “as a designer, you should be thinking about how everything you design can be as flexible as possible,” Stoller says. You must also be able to take a client’s vision and turn it into more than they could have imagined.

Finally, it’s vital to involve the client as much as possible. Both the owner of Bittersweet Café and her daughter are painters, “so we were able to actually incorporate some of the things they already had into the design and then put our own spin on top of that,” says Stoller. “At the end of the day it really is about trying to take the client’s vision and making it the best you can possibly make it.”


Author: Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a freelance writer and editor who has written extensively about business, careers and success for such publications as Working Mother, Real Simple, and AARP Bulletin.


    • Hmmm….you’re giving us ideas, Mike :-)

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  1. Looks awesome Tia! Great job…now where are all the samples?


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    • Tell ‘em where to back up the giant truck full of goodies, Michael ;-)

      Post a Reply

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