Who could ever have predicted that coffee would become the hip drink in the UK? It seems there are coffee shops on just about every corner in London and all over the country. These coffee shops come with a variety of brands, each designed to entice the UK coffee drinker. In this edition of Clash of the Logos, we will be looking at the logo design representing each of these brands and declaring a winner.

The Green Crusader.

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AMT Coffee is seen most often in railway stations all over the UK, but that is not the most compelling part of this brand. AMT was the first coffee company in the UK to switch completely to organic milk and fair trade coffee. The logo design does not refer directly to this differentiating characteristic, but it certainly screams ‘coffee’ with a deep brown color and the image of coffee beans in the center.

The Oddball.

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Caffe Nero has a logo design that is not really related to coffee, but is nonetheless interesting enough to create curiosity. Blocky, square letters create a very imposing presence that seems vaguely Old World, relating to the name. Another positive aspect is that the blue background of the logo design is relaxing and not commonly used in this business. However, the logo design relates very little to either coffee or company lore. Its lack of relevance may be a challenge as the company expands this year to non-Western companies such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates.

The UK Favorite.

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Costa Coffee is the largest coffee chain in the UK, with over 893 stores in the country. This far surpasses even Starbucks.  The brand is rather unique in that it was started by an Italian family, tying into the nation best known for good coffee. Artisan quality is also another key part of the brand, Costa Coffee has its own roasting facility and is the proud employer of three Italian Master Roasters, the only ones in the nation. A special blend is sold in the stores, making it impossible to get this coffee anywhere. With all of these differentiating characteristics, one would think that a unique coffee shop logo design would be a must. Instead, Costa Coffee has a logo design strikingly like that of AMT Coffee and scores of other cafes, with a circle enclosing the image of a coffee bean.

The Neutral Brand.

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Everyone who has been in an airport has likely had a cup of coffee and a scone from Caffe Ritazza, the almost ubiquitous yet under-noticed coffee company. It may manage to fly under the radar of the most fanatic coffee fans, but its logo design keeps customers trickling in. Two different fonts give a well-balanced image and the cup of steaming coffee in the center leaves absolutely no question as to what this cafe is selling. Red and yellow are two colors commonly used in food & drink logo design, but in this case rich, vibrant hues are used for a modern, attractive image.

The Underdog.

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Although a very small chain compared to the others on our list, The Boston Tea Party is a relatively large ‘small business’ with eight cafes throughout South West England. The brand is homegrown, but its inspiration comes from across the Atlantic, in the well known Boston Tea Party in the United States. This revolutionary attitude permeates the company, which is why it won an award from the European Coffee Symposium in 2008 for being the Best Small Branded UK Coffee Chain. True to its brand, the logo design features an eighteenth-century figure enjoying a cup of coffee. Another revolutionary aspect of the brand is that it has an unusual focus on ethically sourced products.

The Modern Favorite.

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Coffee Republic offers a more modern choice in coffee houses as well as a brand and logo design that sets them apart from the pack. Rather than using the oft-chosen circular shape and coffee image, Coffee Republic uses a sophisticated black and white text-only logo. The red heart adds visibility with a splash of colour and implies that this is a loveable brand. This logo design obviously stands out from the pack, which gives the coffee house it represents a huge advantage in this competitive market.

The Corporate Giant.

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Starbucks may not be a UK coffee shop, but you would never know it. This logo design is featured in towns all over the UK, offering American style coffee to an eager customer base. We see once again the circular shape and simple writing, but this time with a double-tailed mermaid that relates to Captain Starbuck and the sea. This logo design’s image ties into the Pacific Northwest lore of the company, but still may be a little boring and way too similar to many of the other logos on the market. This isn’t entirely Starbucks’ fault, as many of the others came after them, but it doesn’t change the diluting effect that this has on the brand.

Who wins the Clash of the Logos? Caffe Nero loses because the square writing makes the word ‘Nero’ look more like ‘Nerd’. While this may attract a certain computer-savvy crowd and has even inspired a spoof website at caffenerd.com, the effect is obviously unintentional. This gives a somewhat unprofessional image to the logo design that just doesn’t suggest great coffee. AMT Coffee may avoid these obvious mistakes, but they fail to capitalize on some of the most attractive features of their brand. Costa Coffee is almost identical to AMT Coffee, which disqualifies them as well.

The Boston Tea Party has an interesting logo that ties into their name and product, but it may be a little whacky for the average consumer. Starbucks has a well-recognized and professionally created brand and logo design, but both of these are too over-exposed to garner any real public love. This leaves our winner: The simple, modern logo design used by Coffee Republic. We think this logo design is a winner because it is recognizable and completely different from any other coffee logo design in the UK.

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