Rapha Abrau becomes Coca-Cola global design chief

Rapha Abrau has become the first Latin American to be named Coca-Cola Co. global design chief. Abreu will oversee all aspects of design for Coca-Cola’s brands, including the Coca-Cola flagship, Fanta, Minute Maid, Powerade and Smartwater, among others.

The new Chief who says he’s most excited about two challenges: sustainability and shaping the full brand experience, is not new to the Coca Cola establishment. He first joined the company in 2011, starting out as a senior design manager in its Latin Center Business Unit in Costa Rica, eventually working his way up to the company’s global head of visual identity and senior global design director.

In 2019, he left to take the chief design post at RBI, where he oversaw design for Burger King, Popeyes and Tim Hortons. Some of his most notable moves included the brand’s retro-meets-modern design overhaul as well as retail plans that imagined what Burger King’s “restaurant of tomorrow” would entail.

In terms of design, “previously, there were a lot of local initiatives,” he said in an interview this week. “Now the initiatives will all be coming from my team. Whatever we design for Coke brand, or Sprite, Fanta and communication-wise, there will be a centralized package, shipped to the markets and executed with much more consistency worldwide.” Such a move will help the brand avoid things like double spending that, for example, might come with event-based campaigns such as Christmas advertising in multiple markets. “You’re able to create better work, with a better budget when it’s one campaign instead of two or three,” he said.

Counting on his experience working under RBI’s former global Chief Marketing Officer Fernando Machado, Abreu is optimistic that this will also help to inform what he does at Coca-Cola. ”Under Fernando’s leadership, you definitely learn how to be bold and take risks, not only in creative but also in design,” he says. “As a challenger brand, Burger King created a lot of noise.” There are challenger brands in Coca-Cola’s portfolio that could benefit from that thinking, he says, while “it’s also important that a leader doesn’t get too comfortable in its position. You can make smart moves but also be bold and keep pushing the brand forward.”

Abreu joins Coke after the departure of David Carrewyn, who was VP of global design before leaving to become head of global marketing at bicycle maker Specialized Bicycle Components, according to his LinkedIn page.


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