Brand & Website Design – The Captain’s Coffee

screen shot of captains coffee green roasting homepage web design

Waaaay back in early 2008, I was hired by these wonderful people to do this. Now 2008 may not seem like a long time ago, but in internet years, it’s a lifetime. Web designers are born and die in the span of 4 years. Not really. In any case, I was quite the newbie back then, and the intertubes were fairly new to me, having only done print design at that point. Denny & Priscilla (owners of the Captain’s Coffee) took me out to eat at a Mexican restaurant in Kernersville, NC, and said that they believed in me. They wanted to hire me to redesign their already-busy ecommerce website, upon which their entire business depended.


scan of the original caricature drawing - captains coffee logo design

My scan of the original caricature drawing.


You can read this post to see how things went back then [spoiler alert: they went well], but we’re going to move forward a bit. Denny was an airline captain, and one of his navigators was a caricature artists on the side. One day, his artist/navigator buddy did an impromptu caricature of Captain Denny, and gave it to him as a gift. Denny and Priscilla loved it so much that they had me transmogriphy that pencil drawing into a corporate logo. Once that happened, it was clear that we had a full brand design on our hands. The kookiness of that grin just lends itself to messy coffee stains, and I had the idea of making the business card (you can see it at the top of this post) look like it had been used as a coaster. We also did a refrigerator magnet version, which they give out to first-time customers.

As you can probably imagine, with their website being my first large-scale website (technically, this was my first website), it wasn’t destined to stay unchanged for decades. I’m actually pretty proud that it lasted as long as it did! Sometime in late 2010/early 2011, Denny & Priscilla started tossing around the idea of making the website “more visual and less word-focused”. Their clientele was steadily growing beyond the retired hobbiest crowd, and was beginning to draw a younger, more web-savvy group of customers, so Denny & Priscilla wanted to innovate to stay ahead. That is very cool, and very rare.

If you’re a business owner, you probably think you have a firm grasp of what your customers want from you. If you spend much time on the phone with clients, you begin to have a sense of what to do to make them happy. However, we all have blind spots, and we all assume things that go unspoken, which means that even the most customer-aware business owner can still benefit from outside help. In this case, I created a customer survey which was posted on the website and sent out via email to all Captain’s Coffee customers which asked customers what they wanted from a green coffee seller, what their shopping habits are, what they do when they visit the site, and many more questions. The response was overwhelming! Nearly everyone responded to the survey, and we learned a lot. Some responses were expected, but many were different than we all expected, which goes to show the value of starting a website redesign with a customer survey. You don’t really know what people like unless you ask them!

Once we had the survey results, I worked at merging the customer expectations with Denny & Priscilla’s goals as owners. The most important thing was to make the site work the way customers expect it to work. That makes for a great user experience. The second thing which I added onto that primary goal was setting up the company to grow into the next decade. You can visit the Captain’s Coffee website here, or read on to see images of the site.


web design graphic of a client

Check out that footer action. I photographed the green coffee beans, and assembled the other elements in Photoshop.


about us - the captains coffee- website design - screenshot of a website we created

One of the custom pages I created, including the Photoshopped image of the ship with their logo on the sail. This was a fun page to write!


another screenshot of the about us page - website design greensboro

Another part of the About us page.


screenshot of the learning center at the captains coffee website

One of the great aspects to the Captain’s Coffee is the wealth of knowledge available for their customers. Some customers found it hard to locate articles and tutorials on the old website, so we put our brains to the task of inventing a way to catalog all their tutorials, suggestions, and more. The Learning Center was the result.


owlbert's coffee selection guide - website design screenshot

One of the Learning Center articles: Owlbert’s Coffee Selection Guide. You’ll have to read it to get the full impact, but this was the highlight of the project for me (Joseph). I asked Denny & Priscilla questions, but didn’t tell them why. I then created images of their plastic owl decoy (whom they call “Owlbert”) in various environments.


screenshot of captains coffee website - green coffee bean recommendations

More of Owlbert’s Coffee Selection Guide.


home coffee roasting shop - web screenshot


webshop website ecommerce design image


I’m happy to say that the new Captain’s Coffee website is a hit, both with my customers, and my customers’ customers. I suppose in the case of the customer that own coffee roasting businesses, this website could even be a hit with my customers’ customers’ customers, and if said customers work better because of the yummy freshly roasted coffee, then you could even say that it’s a hit with my customers’ customers’ customers’ boss’s customers. Right?

Now the story doesn’t end there, because shortly before I finished the new website, my brother Ben and his wife Heather (who happens to also be my sister in law at the same time) started helping Denny & Priscilla out with occasional bag-filling, shipping, and other various and sundry tasks. Well, guess what happened! Ben and Heather (B&H) are now the new owners of the Captain’s Coffee, while Denny & Priscilla (D&P) are finally able to retire away to Bald Head Island, often-visited place for coffee cupping retreats and great fishing.

I think it’s pretty neat that back in 2008, none of us knew that we were working to set up my brother & sister for blessing. The system is ironed-out, working smoothly, and D&P are able to hand off a long list of happy customers to B&H. I’m glad to have been a part of the whole thing.

23 Responses to “Brand & Website Design – The Captain’s Coffee”

  1. bcotten says:

    love the coffee stain that bleeds through to the back of the card. Nice idea.

  2. Thanks! It was one of those little strokes of genius, quite unlike the stroke of paralysis! I love how the Captain's Coffee folks don't take themselves too seriously.

  3. priscilla says:

    Love your new site!! 🙂

  4. Thanks! The old one served it's purpose well, as a simple portfolio, but I really wanted to do something new that would better show who I am as an artist and geek! I'll be adding more of my portfolio over the next few weeks, so check back if you want to see more!

  5. SEO Test says:

    all about coffee. really cool coffee. need some extra design to attract people to get there.

  6. SEO Test says:

    all about coffee. really cool coffee. need some extra design to attract people to get there.

  7. Jump says:

    I stumble upon this page while researching to see how the web and branding design industry is doing. This is an amazing story how a simple web design job lead to a career change for your family member. It is quite touching to read through. If I even have a chance to visit Kernersville, you can be certain that I’ll be at the Captain’s Coffee for a cup. I’m sure that it will be a treat!

    I applause you for taking the let’s do a customer survey approach for the website redesign. Many time in the past I could not get the clients that I’m working with to do the same thing. They expecting us to understand and provide the solution from our pass experiences :). I’m sure you agreed with me that what we think or what our client think is the best might not be the best for the people who are actually going to be using the site day by day, which is the customers.

    Last but not least, great job on! It shows personality with simplicity and user friendly to navigate around.

  8. Thanks, Jackie. It looks like you’ve got a great brand design firm going, yourself! Good luck in your creative endeavors, and thanks again for the compliments!


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