Sales of specialty coffee increase an average of 20 percent each year, making up an $18 billion industry in the United States alone. This means new stores pop up all the time, some more successful than others. Part of the success can be attributed to marketing and overall coffee cup designs.

Courtesy of Giphy

From the most famous of coffee chains to the local mom-and pop-startup, there are a number of cup design options you can go with. The key is to stand out, but to also meet consumer expectations for what a disposable coffee cup should be. Below are eight examples of truly stellar designs to study and learn from.

1. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts has been around since 1950, making it one of the most iconic businesses in America. It’s kept its coffee cup design fairly simple: a Styrofoam cup with the pink double D logo and the tagline of “America Runs on Dunkin’.” For iced coffee, it repeats this design in a clear plastic cup, but without the words Dunkin’ Donuts or the tagline. Since the logo is so recognizable, this serves as a walking billboard for the company.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to keep your design simple and iconic. It’s coffee, not rocket science.

2. Starbucks

Starbucks was founded in Seattle in 1971. By 2016, the company had expanded to nearly 24,000 locations around the globe and continues to grow. Its coffee cup is white with a small tan sleeve to keep the hot coffee from burning your hands through the cup. Although the design changes slightly from time to time, overall, the look is a basic cup with the green Starbucks logo.

Takeaway: One thing to pay attention to with this design is the tans and greens, which speak of nature and the environment, but are also readily recognizable to the brand.

3. McCafe

Although not a typical coffee house, McCafe — located in McDonald’s restaurants around the country — had 5,044 locations in 2015 and offers gourmet coffee. The coffee-house style chain was actually launched in Australia back in 1993, but today is located around the world. The cup, much like Dunkin’ Donuts’, is a reflection of its overall branding, and you’ll likely recognize the M in the word logo design.

Takeaway: When creating a cup for a brand springing from a larger chain, try to retain some of the most familiar elements.

4. Tully’s

Seattle is known for its coffee, so it probably isn’t a surprise that Tully’s also started here in 1992. Even though the company sold its wholesale bean distribution to Green Mountain Coffee Roasters in the first decade of the 2000s, it still runs stores in the United States and retains the right to open new stores around most of the globe. The cup is a dark green with simple stripes and the word Tully’s is in bold, white letters.

Takeaway: Note the use of negative space to draw attention to the logo.

5. Caribou Coffee

Caribou Coffee was founded in 1992 and is headquartered in Minnesota. The company was originally meant to reach office workers in the downtown Brooklyn Center, and was going to only be open on weekdays. Although it’s had some growing pains and closed 80 stores in 2013, it still has stores in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Kansas, Iowa, North Carolina and Denver, Colorado. In addition, they’re located in international markets.

The coffee cup design is a bit unique compared to others in the marketplace. Its cup is a simple white, but the logo is quite eye-catching with a light blue background, a caribou silhouette and a fun, young font.

Takeaway: If the company is young with a hip vibe, the logo should match that attitude. Don’t be afraid to stand out from the competition.

6. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf

The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf was founded in Los Angeles in 1963. It has approximately 1,000 locations around the world today. The founder, Herbert Hyman, is one of the people who brought gourmet coffee to the United States as an industry. Although the cup is simple and white like many of the other designs, the logo itself is unique. It is a circle with a coffee bean and a tea leaf in black. What makes the design unique is the purple sleeve with a white logo.

Takeaway: A bright, jewel-toned sleeve really pops against a white coffee cup. Adding splashes of color in this way offers both a young an established look at the same time.

7. Heine Brothers’

Heine Brothers’ is a fairly new and small player, located in Louisville, Kentucky, and started in 1994. It has branched out and now has 13 coffee shops. It is 100 percent fair-trade and organic, and roasts its own beans in the city where it was founded. The cup design is very artistic, featuring a black logo with gold letters, greenery and black vines and piping covering every square inch of the cup. The design is truly a beautiful piece of artwork.

Takeaway: Don’t be afraid to cater to the crowd you want to reach with an artistic or unique design.

8. Dark Matter Coffee

Think alternative music, and you can get a feel for Dark Matter Coffee and just how deeply creative and psychedelic these coffees are. It’s also taken this vibe to its Meddle cafés in Chicago. Although you might expect the cup design to be colorful and a bit like a kaleidoscope, it takes a different approach, with a logo that looks almost like a crest of arms and is a deep gold.

Takeaway: If your overall vibe and design is vivid, keep your cup design simple and to the point.


These eight designs give you an idea of how to create your own cup. While some things are very traditional in a design, there are still many ways to put your own stamp on the overall look through colors, fonts and layouts.


About the author

Lexie Lu

Hello! My name is Lexie and I have a fervor for design, writing, and coffee. I graduated with a dual major in Creative Writing and Commercial Design, and through those grueling study hours (facilitated by coffee, of course) I always found time to write for myself.

My posts feature design trends throughout all industries and show how the field is always changing. There’s never a dull moment in the design world!

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