California Condor + Raising the ‘Bar’-ista

Michael Pantuso’s California Condor: A Heartfelt Ode to the Endangered Species

As the world grapples with climate change and its devastating impact on nature, artist, designer, and Graphis Master Michael Pantuso turns his attention to the plight of the California condor in his entry for the Design 2024 Awards. With his “California Condor” project (above), Pantuso showcases his digitally hand-drawn artistic expression of the largest North American land bird on the brink of extinction. His illustration not only captures the beauty of the condor but also highlights the challenges it faces due to human activities. In this blog post, we dive deeper into Pantuso’s work and explore his inspiration behind the project.

By: Michael Pantuso

“‘California Condor’ is a digitally hand-drawn artistic expression. The first edition was created for a collector client of a gallery located just outside Chicago and is part of a continuous series that I have been working on over the past 10 years or so. During this time, much of my artwork has been centered around the relationships between humanity and nature. There is something truly special in how humans connect with our environment—it can be an inspiring thing to witness and a magical experience to be a part of. On the other hand, our own destructive behavior towards ourselves and the natural world is very concerning—a confusing, complex reality of intersecting motivations and behaviors. It’s here that I gain my foothold and venture further into the ideas that I’m developing and creating through the blending of graphic design and representational art and with a set of tools that include charcoal, pencils, paintbrushes, Adobe Illustrator, and Adobe Photoshop.

“The focus here is a beautiful holdover from prehistoric times—the California condor. The California condor is the largest North American land bird and is well-known as a critically endangered species. In fact, there are just over 300 alive in the wild today. That’s it. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported 42 condor deaths in 2020, including 34 in California. That’s nearly triple the dozen deaths recorded in the state a year earlier. The biggest threat to the Condor is lead poisoning, which accounts for around half of all known causes of death for the species, as the birds feed on carcasses containing bullet fragments. Also, nearly 10% of the central California population—10 adults and two chicks—died in the blaze that started about a mile south of the Big Sur Condor Sanctuary in Monterey County.

“Today, condors continue to rely on captive-bred birds being released into the wild. It should be noted that at one point, only 22 birds existed on the planet. Therefore, it is only proper to acknowledge the heroic efforts being performed by conservationists (past and present) who are working to rescue this critical species.”

Signed limited editions are available. Printed on fine art paper and metal. View more work by Michael Pantuso.

Raising the Barista: *TraceElement’s Lavazza 1895 Packaging Creates a Stir

Lavazza’s challenge to *TraceElement to create a brand for their premium coffee line was like a shot of espresso, full of bold flavor and energy. The designers took on the task with a passion for crafting something exceptional, and their efforts paid off when their packaging won a Gold award in Design 2023. This project was like a slow drip, combining the heritage of the Lavazza brand with a contemporary and visionary approach to create a unique blend of craftsmanship and innovation. TraceElement’s team roasted up a design for Lavazza’s 1895 ‘1895 Single Origin Coffee‘ campaign (above) that’s a bold blend of ecology, flavor notes, and traditional aromas, creating packaging that’s as enticing as a perfectly brewed cup of coffee. Ready to learn more about this award-winning concept? Let’s dive into the story behind this unique and striking design.

By: Anna Mertz, *TraceElement (USA), Account Director

“Lavazza approached us to develop the branding for a premium line of coffee that would combine the Lavazza brand’s heritage of craftsmanship with a contemporary and visionary point of view. This line, 1895 Coffee Designers by Lavazza, needed to emphasize expertise in sourcing, highlighting hyperlocal beans from across the globe, stand out from the competition, and wrap everything up in premium, best-in-class package design.

“We were inspired to create the identity for the 1895 Coffee Designers by Lavazza by envisioning it as a passcode to a new world of bold flavor and coffee experimentation. Simple, modern characters are set with a ligature between the eight and nine numerals, signifying the brand’s reputation as a connector between coffee lovers and the finest artisan coffee creations.

“In particular, we’re focused on single-origin and blended specialty coffees, which seek to combine the search for origins from independent and sustainable plantations with the highest technology in coffee processing. The bag design draws inspiration from the ecology of the country of origin. Illustrations of the coffee’s flavor notes are mixed with flora and fauna. There are nods to the heritage of the parent brand Lavazza through adapting their signature aroma pattern and the use of the traditional Lavazza blue alongside a more striking and modern color palette.

“1895 Coffee Designers by Lavazza has been an outstanding success for the brand, and we’ve gone on to execute many pieces of creative for them, from equipment to a line of packaging for blends, single origin, and micro-lots to brand partnerships and even interior design guidance for a factory and cafés. The result is a strikingly crafted concept, intricate and special, just like their coffee.”

Learn more about this project and other work at

To see other Design 2023 winners, click here. To enter our Design 2024 competition, click here.

Author: Graphis