Alumni Services

A shot at success

Helen Coburn’s Illustration degree from Edinburgh College of Art has added a design focus to the latest artisan coffee venture to open in Edinburgh’s New Town.

Helen Coburn

Opening a coffee shop may not seem the most obvious use of an arts degree, but Helen Coburn has taken everything she learnt at ECA and ploughed it into her new business.

Together with her husband Matt, Helen aims to bring a European espresso bar feel to the busy former cobblers shop spot on York Place where they recently opened Fortitude Coffee.




I designed everything myself, from the menus to the signage to the souvenir postcards, illustrated with ‘Fortitude’ inspired images.

Helen Coburn
Fortitude Coffee

Designed for life

Having both worked in coffee shops over the years, their aim has been to bring the best quality espresso to Edinburgh.

Extensive research was carried out in London’s coffee shops and suppliers over summer 2013, with Helen even giving herself caffeine poisoning after one too many tastings.

Having settled on their supplier, they now also function as a coffee merchants, selling bags of freshly ground coffee for customers to take home. This has proven popular, and Helen has learned the importance of getting to know your market.


We have also realised that busy office workers in the area are looking for lunch, not just coffee. And so we have started selling soup and will be expanding our lunch menu in the summer.

Helen Coburn
Coffee merchants

Freedom of expression

It has not just been her design skills which have been useful in the lead up to opening.

Reflecting on her time at ECA, Helen highlights the freedom and lack of restrictions, such as a set house style, as factors in nurturing her creativity and developing confidence in thinking outside the box.

The vision thing

The couple have big plans for the future and would like to eventually open a branch aimed towards students and a market stall.

A combination of Helen’s ECA instilled approach to design, and a work ethic powered by the finest artisan espresso, will no doubt ensure that the European coffee culture which Helen dreams of will be realised in Edinburgh.