Fashionistas in Coffee Shops

Fashionistas in Coffee Shops

Illustrated by Xinjia Liu

When coffee is no longer just a beverage, the culture behind coffee has made this brown liquid taste more than it could be. The pale pink paint of the cafe facade makes it the best spot for photography; its aesthetic interior earns a lot of “likes” online that has made the shop a phenomenon; its latest tumbler is so popular that you are already on the waiting list; everybody is eager to try its coffee and take a photo of that particular shop with themselves in the frame.

It’s not a coincidence at all as more people relating to aesthetics have become Best Pals of coffee shops. They have been the fashionistas to give an overall “make-up” of a coffee shop, from architecture to interior, from photography to branding. So what makes an aesthetic coffee shop? We’ve interviewed interior designers, photographers, illustrators and brand specialists to give answers from their professional practices.

Photo: Sivak & Partners

First Impression Matters, and A Lot!

Judging by the first impression applies not only to job interviews but also to coffee shops. When some coffee shops strive to find out what makes a new customer come in and get out with purchases, many design-led stores seem to successfully jump on a fast track for development.

A recent survey by has shown that visual appeal is a key to attract passers-by by the storefront of a coffee shop. Such a concept has been adopted by many coffee shops from the countries of the West like Hound stooth Coffee in Dallas, USA, to the East, like Hong Kong-based %Arabica. The latter has boasted a range of design-led branches in many strong coffee culture countries, such as Japan, Kuwait, and cities, such as Shanghai. Its first branch in Beijing opened in early May has made many locals feel on top of the world.

Photo: Sivak & Partners

Interior designers and architects are regarded as “composers” of coffee shops. They use a wide range of aesthetics to give coffee shops a nice touch. Earlier this year, Sivak & Partners’ Chief Designer Maksym Iuriichuk completed the studio’s project of the coffee shop, Daily Coffee in Odessa. “Before this, we only had an experience with a bakery called Breadway,” introduced Iuriichuk.

Breadway is painted in the happy color palette of pink and all bright colors that will lift up your mood. Along with the design cues from The Grand Budapest Hotel, the design has made the bakery featured on many design and lifestyle websites.

This time, Iuriichuk, as a coffee lover, took another approach in the Project Daily Coffee. It took his team a total of a year to accomplish including two months at the beginning to create a design concept. “Our clients wanted their space to be minimalistic because for them good coffee is the centerpiece,” said Iuriichuk. The coffee shop had a small coffee spot in Green Theater for the summer when the idea of workshop “Breakfast with an Interesting Person” was born.

The Person is someone who is influential in the city, either a businessman, a journalist, a musician or a museum curator. Such a cross-border event gives Daily Coffee a touch of culture.

Photo: Sivak & Partners

Boasting a spacious room with a bar and a sitting area, the owners prefer a place without too many colors or extraordinary design details to distract customers’ attention. “That’s why I’ve chosen a minimalistic style in warm beige colors,” explained Iuriichuk, “The main aesthetic principle was simplicity. The idea was to create a cozy atmosphere with the help of lighting.”

In the afternoon, the sunlight creates beautiful shadows from different objects like interior decorations and plants. The warmth will be interpreted in another way when the night falls in, “You will see a completely different picture created by wall lights. The biggest challenge for us in this project was to create beautiful plaster on the walls. The shop’s walls are roughly covered with a warm, sand-colored plaster,” said Iuriichuk, “We worked with our contractor for three weeks to try and find a suitable shade and guess how it would look in the light of the sun since all the construction work happened in the late autumn during overcast weather. ”

The first impression is composed of a lot of details. Iuriichuk used a very Scandinavian design technique when designing Daily, “We used tiles with nice patterns in order to create a contrast with walls… I like it when the whole concept of design is based on simple ideas but the floor is the thing that is eye-catching.” The catchy tile featured in geometric shapes can also be found in the restroom of the coffee shop.

Photo: Sivak & Partners

Unlike other coffee shops with a consistent design concept, Daily Coffee also features another semi-private zone to “create a very special intimate atmosphere,” according to Iuriichuk. “Here, you can enjoy some quiet time with a book and a cup of coffee; have some time with friends on the sofa, or share a little table for two with your date. “The burgundy color he chose is intense but also gives the coffee shop a second ambience that attracts a different group of customers.

Daily Coffee may be one example as many more coffee shops tend to adopt aesthetic principles to lure their customers while making themselves stand out from the crowded market. In the city where you live, you may find more coffee shops that boast different styles, appealing to your eyes, indicating “Hey, come in please and let’s take a photo!”

Illustrated by Xinjia Liu

Q&A with Maksym Iuriichuk 

How is the coffee culture in Ukraine?

The situation is very different from city to city. If you take Kyiv for example, the level is very high. There are a lot of coffee shops. The similar story is with Dnipro and Lviv. In Odessa, you’ll see a different situation. Several years ago, there was an active start: the coffee shops opened one after another, it was something new and trendy. But at some point, everything stopped. Now, there are only few places in town that specializes in specialty coffee.

About Maksym Iuriichuk

Maksym Iuriichuk is the Chief Designer of Sivak & Partners, a design firm in Ukraine. He began to study architecture in “Odessa State Academy of Building and Architecture” from 2007 to 2013. In 2013, he started to work as a CG artist. Since 2016, Iuriichuk has worked in Sivak & Partners, who works on both residential projects and commercial and architectural projects.

Photo: Amelia Hallsworth

See Behind the Shutter

To some extent, a photographer acts like a “recorder” who makes a visual recording of beautiful things, providing intriguing details to the audience. It’s not hard to tell whether a photo is good or not. However, it takes much more effort to be a good photographer.

When a picture of an aesthetic coffee shop or a setting of a coffee table suddenly pops out on the screen, your finger just can’t help clicking to show preference. But why’s that? If you dig into this a little deeper, you will find that now more and more coffee shops have partnered with professional photographers and bloggers to launch social media campaigns in a bid to reach a larger audience.

Amelia Hallsworth is a professional photographer based in London. She has been working with the local coffee magazine Caffeine since 2013/14 as a photographer and for independent shops too. “I’ve lost count of how many cafes I’ve had the pleasure of shooting – It’s a lot!” admitted Hallsworth. Her photos are used in many different ways, but mostly for marketing and advertising through social media, websites, and magazines.

Photo: Amelia Hallsworth

London is regarded as one of the capitals of third wave specialty coffee with so many world famous coffee shops. Passionate about specialty coffee herself, Hallsworth has her own portfolio website where you can see a special section labeled “Coffee.” Each photo is well composed in a neat bright setting. You can see movements in her photos as she pictures baristas brewing or roasting coffee. You can also see contrasts and light, which she tries to convey with the help of the warm color deployed in many local coffee shops.

“As a photographer, I firstly consider the lighting and if it’s something that’s going to be problematic, then I look around to find what areas or objects I want to capture,” explained Hallsworth, “Finally, I consider the composition of the image. Lighting, content and composition are the three most important things.”Just like many people, Hallsworth believes high-quality coffee is a key to winning customers’ hearts. However, if it is something from coffee shop’s core values, then it is something that coffee shop owners have to bear in mind. “I’d say always having beans on rotation and keep customers interested and educated as standing out from the crowd is hard in London. There’s specialty coffee everywhere,” said Hallsworth. To be the “IT” store, shop owners need to understand the power of aesthetics too. “My professional tip would be aesthetics, from the decor to the coffee,” Hallsworth suggested, “It needs to be pleasing to the eye, even if that does mean keeping it simple and sleek like Omotesando. People will want to take photos, and those photos will get seen all over the world making your cafe recognized.” That’s how “Instagrammable” became a new adjective to describe those shops being tagged and featured in so many customers’ personal accounts on social media. The platform is about sharing but it also becomes a new method for the market and brand. That’s why more coffee shops are revising their strategies to make their shops more appealing to cameras.

Photo: Amelia Hallsworth

Hallsworth agrees it has become a trend that there will be more of such coffee shops in the city, “The best example that I have seen is undoubtedly Elan Cafe in London. They not only have a stunning Instagrammable decor but also take a lot of care in their latte art and coffee design,” she shared.

Photography is not new but it has become more and more important to coffee shops winning in today’s competitive world. It gives a shop another aesthetic touch to its decor, atmosphere, coffee and the people working and drinking in the shop. Reviewing all those cafes you have “liked” on social media, can you now conclude the top three characteristics they share in common?

Illustrated by Xinjia Liu

About Amelia Hallsworth

Amelia Hallsworth is a London-based photographer who has worked with the local magazine Caffeine since 2013/14 and also for local independent shops.

Illustrate Your Brand Voice

Illustration is growing in popularity in branding these days. If the Ritual’s giftcard is a touch of warm-hearted gesture, Ria Sim’s illustration makes daily cafe hopping a real journey in the pursuit of happiness.

“I’m an artist that loves to add a whimsical approach …capturing a smile…making someone’s day,” shared Sim, “I’m a really happy person. So it’s pretty easy for me to add ‘Happiness’ to each illustration/video I post.”

The digital advert trend from still images to motions also catches Sim’s attention. “I feel we are moving away from the average photographs in ads and moving into motion,” suggested Sim, whose Instagram is filled with illustrated stop-motion clips of coffee and cafes.

San Francisco based young illustrator started to post animation in December 2018. In less than six months, she worked with many coffee shops and brands – De’longhi Coffee Machine, La Colombre, Bubby Café, Ninja Brand Coffee Maker and etc. – for she has over 48 thousand followers on Instagram. As she said, “I’ve noticed many companies now are going into digital ads…say, motion design.”

Photo: Ria Sim

Illustration is a unique way to express the core concept of a coffee shop. “Every cafe has its ‘heart’, in my opinion, and it doesn’t take long for me to capture that something special and turn it into an illustration,” explained Sim, “The vibe is the key.”

Just like Sim said in the interview, every artist or photographer has their own style in bringing out a message. As she adds “Happiness” in her posts, Corinne Alexandra, from Stuck with Pins based in San Diego takes another way to present to her local client Scrim shaw Coffee.

Alexandra has been an expert in photography, design, illustration, branding and more of creative stuff at her company in the past 12 years. She has worked with a range of brands from coffee shops to lifestyle brands to create design and branding solutions, such as Scrim shaw Coffee.

“Just a week into Scrimshaw’s opening, handfuls of people were already sharing pictures on their Instagram feeds of Verne the whale and of their cold brews perfectly juxtaposed with the ‘Waste Time Together’ slogan painted on the bar,” said Alexandra.

Verne is a stylish humpback whale Alexandra created for Scrimshaw Coffee as a mascot.

Photo: Scrimshaw Coffee

The clean yet simple hand-drawn icon is full of personality, “Driving down El Cajon Blvd., the decal of Verne on the front window immediately grabs your attention. He’s hip and fun; most importantly, memorable.”

When Alexandra is asked by her clients for something that really “stands out,” “memorable,” and feels like “them,” her conclusion is that people want others to have an emotional connection to the design. “Handdrawn elements add a unique human feel to the brand. It feels inviting and relatable,” explained Alexandra, “There’s also a trend that makes hand drawn design look creative, hip, and cool, which thus attracts a young, stylish audience many clients often want to.”

Contrast is the aesthetic principle that Alexandra believes in, “With almost all my brands, I’m always contrasting one style with another to create aesthetic balance.” For Scrimshaw as an example Alexandra used clean supporting fonts to contrast with the hand-drawn logo.

As a traveler and city explorer, Alexandra checks Instagram and other social media to find the places she’d like to go, “It’s all about that visual experience for me.”

Being aesthetically pleasing or Instagrammable has become a trend from online to offline to online. “All of those branded details play a huge role in getting patrons at your door, sharing you with their friends, and keeping them coming back,” said Alexandra.

Photo: Scrimshaw Coffee

Many people opt for eye-appealing cafe decor from storefront to interiors. Small details like a logo, bean packaging can attract a wide range of audience, even passers-by. As they are convinced that good-looking stuff means tasty, “There is so much competition out there in the coffee realm, it’s not enough to just make good coffee,” commented Alexandra.

Admitted by Alexandra, her branding philosophy is hugely inspired by cult classic horror movies’ edgy, audacious, and unapologetic style.

 “I apply that same method to my brands – when you try to appeal to everyone, you’ll fail to attract anyone, so I push my clients to take big design risks.” As Alexandra’s approach worked, “In the end, we create work that attracts a dedicated following and more importantly, repels the kinds of clients they don’t want to.”

It’s undeniable that branding is getting more important to coffee shops to create a consistent yet strong brand image to their target customers, bringing out the inner “beauty” out of the brand core. “Aesthetics is key in a coffee shop,” said Sim, “However, good coffee is what draws people!” She regards coffee shops as a second home, as many coffee lovers do. The inviting atmosphere and friendly staff are key for the brand.

“Aesthetics is a massive component of coffee brand’s success. And companies that don’t value their brand aesthetics are missing out on a huge opportunity for free social media marketing,” advised Alexandra.

To brand or not to brand. It is not a trend but a choice made by each coffee shop owner. Branding is something that you’ll see through a series of components to remember a name and its brand image, either a logo or a packaging design. When you put those components and efforts in the right order and places, you will see the whole picture of your Brand Puzzle.

About Ria Sim

Ria Sim is an independent artist based in San Francisco, USA. She has posted a lot of stop-motion videos on Instagram, whose account has more than 48.7k follower us. She describes herself as “a very happy person” and wants to make someone’s day through her artworks.


Illustrated by Xinjia Liu

About Corinne Alexandra

Corinne Alexandra is an artist, designer, and photographer from San Diego, USA. She specializes in branding, packaging, and illustration. In 2014, she graduated from San Diego State University with a Bachelor of Arts in Graphic Design. Her works have been published in numerous books, magazines, albums, and other media outlets worldwide.

Illustrated by Xinjia Liu