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 branding of coffee roaster and cafe Common Room in Costa Mesa, California is a simple two-dimensional, flat icon of a coffee cup and saucer. It appears repeated in a diagonal pattern across the cafe’s exterior, a gray single-story brick warehouse-type building in a light-industrial business park devoid of shops and the hustle-and-bustle street traffic that comes with it. The windows are darkly shaded. Both its location and secretive minimalist architectural design give it an air of mystique.
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.
The international symbols for man and woman often used on signage for restrooms at airports, museums, restaurants and public places, etc., throughout the world are sometimes reinterpreted by designers. We noticed a lot of variations on the symbols at various places in Amsterdam on our recent visit there. Pictured here are the even more minimalist and pared down and arm-less versions of these symbols used in signage at Ij Kantine, a massive, beautifully designed restaurant and bar in Amsterdam’s northside across the Ij River. We’ll post images of the restaurant in a separate post soon.
A sparkly fresh new wheat-paste street art piece by the artist Raemann on Lafayette Street in NoHo, downtown New City. “Smart Air” is another in series of artworks that depict “bottled air” as a consumer product branded with the logos of popular bottled-water brands, such as Dasani, Perrier, Poland Spring, and, as pictured here, Smart Water.
Brand-awareness ads in magazines rarely come as simple, bold and minimalist as this two-page spread for the Italian bicycle maker Bianchi in the Dutch cycling mag Soigneur. Aside from logotype and slogan on aquamarine-like blue, the pages are blank. Love love love the color.