Intelligentsia Coffee: Printing Custom Posters That Blend Culture & Color
| Posted on 7/25/19

Intelligentsia Coffee: Printing Custom Posters That Blend Culture & Color

Rob Patterson is the owner of Ratiofarm, a Chicago design house known for its logos, illustrations, and vibrant graphics. Formerly, Patterson worked as the in-house creative director at Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea, a coffee roasting company and retailer based in Chicago. Founded in 1995, Intelligentsia is a direct-trade purveyor of fine coffees and teas from around the world. During his tenure at Intelligentsia, Patterson used design and illustration to translate the brand’s stories into collectible custom posters.

A custom poster printed with an orange, yellow and light green design.

Caffeinated Celebration

Since 2009, Intelligentsia Coffee & Tea has hosted an annual week-long Extraordinary Coffee Workshop known as ECW. Each year, the event brings together Intelligentsia’s direct-trade partners in a coffee-producing location in search of new ways to create a better beverage. The partners from around the world study and share different coffee production approaches, ideas and practices.

To brand the event and reflect its unique locales, Patterson created a logo and custom poster for each event. “The event in Guatemala was the seventh and largest,” Patterson recalled. Expecting over 70 producer partners from 17 different countries, Patterson was compelled to connect Intelligentsia and ECW with the location. “I had to figure out the best way to tell the story.”

Custom artwork on a marketing poster with an orange, yellow and light green design.

A poster printed with a bright design in orange and yellow.

Patterson got inspiration from the Mayan creator god, Itzamna

Inspired Update

The Mayan creator god, Itzamna, gave Patterson the necessary inspiration. “It seemed a perfect choice to feature,” he said. “Especially given that Intelligentsia had named its original coffees from Guatemala after Itzamna years earlier. It was a nice tie-in.”


With Intelligentsia’s Itzamna brand imagery as a basis, Patterson customized the illustration with his own spin for ECW. “I gave it an update, made it more interesting, added some vibrancy, texture, color and drama,” he said. “Since it would be used as a poster, I gave it a psychedelic nod.”


Smartpress’ online printing services make poster printing a streamlined process. Utilizing our Large Posters, Patterson was able to customize by size and add lamination and mounting supplies before setting up his design file for online printing.

“I love the energy and warmth that emulates from the complex and multi-colored textiles found in Guatemala.”

A hand pulling up the corner of a custom poster with a bright orange, yellow and light teal design.

A marketing poster with a bright orange, yellow and light teal design.

Cultural Connection

Along with its colorful Mayan gods, Guatemala has the most volcanoes in the region, many of which are near the farms that Intelligentsia partners with. “I added mountain peaks and volcanic shapes to the poster’s negative space as a subtle reference,” says Patterson.

His custom posters features an illustration with distinct typography. Designed by Patterson, it also references Guatemala’s unique topography and honors the region’s iconic culture, history and terrain. The bold color palette also references Guatemalan culture. Patterson notes, “I love the energy and warmth that emulates from the complex, multi-colored textiles found in Guatemala.”

Two custom posters rolled up and laying on top of another poster with an orange and red design.

Two hands holding a poster with custom artwork in red, orange and light green.

The bold color palette references Guatemalan textiles and culture

Memorable Collection

“The mark and poster were universally loved,” Patterson said. Many of the grower partners who attend ECW collect each year’s poster. “After the event, they take them home as a memento, frame them and put them up in their offices.”


Beyond ECW, the posters were hung in Intelligentsia retail stores. The illustration took on a life of its own when one of Intelligentsia’s exporting companies recreated the poster as a sand mandala. “Can you believe that? Patterson exclaims. “It was really cool!”

Print Details

Large Poster

Poster Paper, 36 x 48 Portrait Format

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