Hot Bread Kitchen, a five-year-old nonprofit that offers low-income women paid training in commercial cooking (and ESL), debuts a visual identity designed by Pentagram partner Abbott Miller.

Miller and his team developed a series of patterns based on ingredients and tools used in breadmaking: rye, semolina, sea salt, honey, and whisks, to name a few (there are 28 in all).

The identity attempts to preserve HBK’s unique mission; a brand that would celebrate the craft and traditions behind each of the company’s products.

Each HBK bread comes wrapped in a unique pattern made up of its own ingredients.

“Although its a bit corny to say so, the packaging is meant to feel melting-pot-American,” says Miller, “in that there are elements of American vernaculars in the type, but then the influence of all of these other ingredients.”

You can buy HBK breads at New York City stores, greenmarkets, and the nonprofit’s own storefront in East Harlem.

Co.Design

Pentagram’s Pattern-Happy Branding For A Slow-Food Success Story

Hot Bread Kitchen, a fast-growing nonprofit based in Harlem, turned to Pentagram for a brand that would articulate its unique mission.

When Jessamyn Rodriguez founded Hot Bread Kitchen in 2007, the nonprofit was a grand experiment, run out of her downtown Brooklyn home. The goal was to provide low-income immigrant women--many of whom are the primary earner in their families--with the paid training and work they need to support their households. It worked. In the five years since, 27 women from 12 countries have been trained in commercial baking and ESL classes, and the company has flowered, opening a retail location in East Harlem. In 2012, Rodriguez launched HBK Incubates, a program to help her “pay it forward” to other startup food businesses hoping to scale up in the marketplace while remaining sustainable.

HBK is growing exponentially, but as of last year, had no brand or logo to unite its various activities. Pentagram partner Abbott Miller connected with Rodriguez last year, after a client of Miller’s--who is also a supporter of HBK--suggested that a cohesive brand identity might give the blossoming company better visibility in the marketplace. Miller took the project on pro bono, and got to work developing an identity. "Over the past year, our whole team worked very closely with Pentagram to come up with the designs and implementations of our new branding," explains Rodriguez. For Miller, the process of meeting and working with the HBK team in their East Harlem space offered an immediate direction for the design. “Visiting the bakery and having meetings fueled by these delicious breads made it vivid for all of us,” he says.

It seemed important that the new identity preserve HBK’s unique mission; a brand that would celebrate the craft and traditions behind each of the company’s products. Miller and his team developed a series of patterns based on ingredients and tools used in breadmaking: rye, semolina, sea salt, honey, and whisks, to name a few (there are 28 in all). Each HBK bread comes wrapped in a unique pattern made up of its own ingredients. “Although its a bit corny to say so, the packaging is meant to feel melting-pot-American,” says Miller, “in that there are elements of American vernaculars in the type, but then the influence of all of these other ingredients.”

Today, HBK sells 15 traditional breads--from Persian Nan-E Barbari to Moroccan M’smen--in locations like Dean & DeLuca, Whole Foods, and more than 30 greenmarkets. But the core goal of the nonprofit remains the same: providing women with a (rare) chance to get paid to gain new skills, while preserving the culinary traditions that in many cases, hail from the employees’ countries of origin. “What makes the project special to me is the way an ancient tradition becomes the fulcrum for a multi-faceted program,” says Miller. “A word that Jessamyn used early on was 'breaducation,' the notion that baking for sustenance is also a form of education for participants, for the public, and that there is within that a social component, a jobs component, and even a language component.”

Working for a culinary mastermind has its perks. “Me and my team got a lovely package of breads with the new branding the day before Thanksgiving,” Miller adds, "which was especially nice timing.” Check out Hot Bread Kitchen here.

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6 Comments

  • EmilyOpines

    I like the simplicity of using the ingredients and tools as the design elements. Not in love with the color palette but otherwise I like the execution. I think unifying multiple baking heritages under one brand identity may provide a great opportunity to for these breads to reach new audiences, preserving traditions and providing livelihoods in the process. Will have to try them out if ever in NYC.

  • houseofcakes

    I agree. Great company/mission, but "differentiating them from the market?" It looks suspiciously like Bouley, Sullivan Street and other "artisanal" breads (read $$$$). It does NOT look "ethnic," but rather, it's saying "people of privilege! buy our bread b/c it's BREAD! don't be afraid of us!" Perhaps that's what they needed--to escape/hide/whatever their "ethnicity" in a world that really compartmentalizes "ethnicity" into a small (racial) box. This will probably get more people to try their bread, which is what they want/need. Something in the middle of their old brand (kind of too grass-rootsy and scratchy) and this one (too polished, plastic-y, fake) would have been nice. I like the patterning. It also great that a social cause can get this kind of publicity. I hope it wasn't "pro bono" though... (another discussion for another time).

  • VizCab

    I really like the 'breaducation' concept of the bakery, and would feel good about buying the product knowing this, but I don't see it in the design. I have great admiration for Pentagram, but the washed out pastel of the circle element and the all caps treatment of the type are dry. The straight up geometry of the patterns and type seem more mechanical than hand made.

  • Gary Hustwit

    Hot Bread Kitchen is an amazing non-profit. Hats off to Abbott and the team at Pentagram for contributing their design skills to help HBK's cause. And if you're in NYC, make a point of trying HBK's breads, they're fantastic. 

  • Sabrtooth

    Wow, Pentagram did their jobs again. Is FastCo. owned by them? Because it certainly seems that this is the only agency that gets written about ***scratch that*** gets constant free publicity for run-of-the-mill projects.

    I realize that they are indeed a large company with a lot of clients and do a lot of vanity projects to keep themselves in the limelight, but come on. Let's poke our heads out of our comfort zones once in a while and find someone new who is doing something admirable somewhere. Please. Because I've about had it with this site and it's incredibly short-sightedness.

  • Alan Bennington

    Sabrtooth

    I completely agree with your assessment ...the "Big" agencies generally do poor work and charge 50 times more than a competent "unknown" designer would charge but, this is the way of the  B2B world. Big business only deals with fellow big business. Hear it now and believe it later.