Yes, savvy reader, it’s true. Almost everybody’s favorite Seattle, Washington-based, international speciality-coffee chain has a design flaw in its familiar, if not ubiquitous, mermaid logo.
Can you spot it? Do you see it? What is it? Look closely at the logo. (And c’mon now — don’t Google the answer! We dare you not to! We double dare you!)
Got the answer?
Ok, spoiler alert, here it is: The logo is round and symmetrical. That’s not the flaw. It was supposed to be perfectly symmetrical, but it isn’t. The right side of the mermaid’s nose has more shadow. This was actually intentional. So, in our opinion, you can’t really call this a “flaw.” (But Adweek and others have called it a flaw.)
When the perfectly symmetrical version of the logo was reviewed, the designers felt that the mermaid looked to cold and lacked humanity. Adding that extra shadow on one side made all the difference in making the logo that bit warmer and friendlier.
Suddenly, we want to find the nearest Starbucks, use the restroom there, and then maybe buy a coffee. Or at least ask for a cup of water.
Our annual New Year’s ritual of doing some house cleaning and organizing, throwing things out and making room for all the stuff we got as Xmas gifts, yielded this small trove of matchbooks and matchboxes. We must have picked up these from various restaurants and shops because the designs struck us in some way at the moment we saw them. Each design is distinct and an exercise in branding. These matches are from the New York City outpost of the restaurant Mission Chinese; James Beach, a restaurant in Venice Beach; Esquelito, a jewelry store in Echo Park, Los Angeles and the Spanish word for “skeleton”; the Crosby Street Hotel in SoHo, New York; and Love Adorned, another jewelry shop with branches in NYC and LA.
The logo for Intelligentsia Coffee’s “Black Cat” Espresso is the head of a black cat. It’s a bold and literal graphic with class and style, rendered so that the cat’s head is seen from a 3/4-angle, giving it some visual dimensionality.
Intelligentsia has put the Black Cat logo on some of the various cups and saucers it uses at its various architecturally-inspired cafes. Transferring the branding across these is a straightforward 1:1 application of the literal logo. Sometimes, whether you’re drinking Black Cat espresso or not, you get your coffee served in one of these Black Cat-branded cups, and these look pretty cool.
But Intelligentsia has also created some variations of the logo and occasionally, if you’re lucky, you’ll get your coffee served in a black ceramic cup and saucer, where the Black Cat logo is rendered in a lightened gold hue. It’s elegant its knocked-out contrast to the black ceramic.
When you get your cappucino served with this black cup and saucer set, it’s kind of special. The black and gold add another layer of smart sophistication and a dash of mystique to the brand. That the cat is in gold instead of black is a deft touch that, for those familiar with the usual logo presentation, may be seen as an aesthetically clever and playful twist on a familiar and already likeable and strong visual cue.
All this further supports the larger Intelligentsia Coffee brand and reinforces the company’s reputation for great design and well-defined sense of style, whether expressed in the architectural design of its cafes or the form factor of its ceramic mugs or the high-graphical aesthetic of its coffee packaging and t-shirts.