Graphic design alumni help make entrepreneurial dreams a reality
“One small sip for man…” reads the tagline of the newest addition to Houston’s coffee scene, Giant Leap Coffee — an astronaut-themed cafe in East Downtown.
For co-owners and Houston natives Lauren Ferrante and Logan Beck, the small, minimalistic coffee shop represents a combination of their interests and say they are invested in seeing the community grow.
“We felt like it was an untapped zone and also really love this area,” Beck said. “I love the idea of being even more embedded in the community than I already am and helping it along in the direction that I think will be cool for Houston.”
The cafe, about 15 minutes from campus on Canal Street, opened the first week of spring semester.
Giant Leap is well-connected to the University as well — Ferrante and Beck credit alumni Daniel Cardoza and Enrique Garza for their work and for creating the “perfect” logo — a to-go cup fashioned as a lunar lander.
“Working with the owners was extremely amicable,” Cardoza said. “They are creative individuals as well, so that fostered a lot of good feedback and collaboration throughout the whole process.”
The logo came into being through a process that alumni Cardoza and Garza underwent researching elements surrounding the moon landing. They then conceived the idea of bringing their findings into a contemporary space.
“The Eagle Lunar Module was always something that stood out to both of us, so we started pairing it with contemporary iconography to see if we could draw any parallels,” Cardoza said. “We started sketching and throwing around ideas until we landed on that bold mark, something we’re proud of.”
Cardoza and Garza are recent alumni who both graduated with Fine Arts degrees in graphic design in 2016.
Their meeting with Ferrante and Beck was arranged by other Houston-based designers and from there they went from working various freelance jobs to their first collaborative project.
The decor inside is a collection of pieces from friends of the owners who they say are all artists and designers. Beck himself helped make espresso cups by hand.
The facade of the counter is a large, 3D printed wood engraving of the topography of a moon crater.
Beck says he had spent some time with his girlfriend brainstorming a list of themes and more than two hundred names for the coffee shop. When he brought the winning idea to Ferrante, everything fell into place.
“We were trying to distill something that was real Houston, but also fun and described what we were doing,” Beck said. “I felt like Giant Leap was perfect, because it was such a leap for us to decide to do this.”
Ferrante says she sees it as a place for creatives and has already imagined its possibilities.
“We’d like to have artists and designers do some rotating installations or host pop-up shops,” Ferrante said. “We have some space here, so we’d like to be able to utilize it communally.”
Ferrante and Beck have been friends for a decade and serendipitously came to the idea of owning a coffee shop independently, so when Beck came to Ferrante asking for help with logistics, they knew it was time to go for it.
With the help of Cardoza and Garza, that dream became reality.
“They came to us with an amazing name, interesting motifs and amazing ideas for the build out. I think their vision for the place was very organic and flexible. This gave us quite a bit of freedom in regards to exploration,” Cardoza said.
For Ferrante and Beck, they said they feel secure and comfortable leaning into the Houston aesthetic.
“Someone told us when we were thinking of things that the original NASA headquarters is like three blocks from here,” Ferrante said. “So we’re just keeping it down to earth.”
Beck, an enthusiastic fan of sci-fi imagery and space movies, takes it a step further.
“Astronauts drink free,” Beck said. “If you’ve been to space, you drink coffee for free.”