Union Yard brand identity design

Norwich boasts an impressive array of independent delis, cafés and coffeehouses. It’s a thriving, enthusiastic community of chefs, bakers, baristas and small business owners dedicated to serving those who take their daily sustenance a little more seriously than a quick trip to Tesco.

We were very pleased to be asked by Steven Winter, founder of Union Yard, to create a new brand identity, signage and packaging for the latest addition to Norwich’s independent café scene. In a sea of mock-Italian coffeehouse chains, Union Yard brings a touch of variety to early morning commuters and those in search of food throughout the day, with specially selected loose-leaf teas, premium coffee and locally sourced produce. An impressive array of baked goods are on offer courtesy of Dozen, a local artisan bakery and client of The Click.

Union Yard brand identity design

The brand

The inspiration at the heart of the Union Yard brand is the ubiquitous card coffee cup. It’s difficult to make it into work in the morning without spotting tens of corrugated containers clutched in besuited hands, usually alongside a Smartphone or copy of the morning newspaper. For the logo, the initial of Union Yard becomes one such steaming receptacle, used to contain any number of hot beverages. Although the Union Yard wordmark features the logo and takes precedent on signage and across many printed applications, the ‘U’ logo functions in isolation, providing the flexibility to extend the brand across diverse products.

Union Yard brand identity design

The font used for the Union Yard identity is Bebas, chosen for its thick, condensed lettering reminiscent of early 20th century typography. Bebas works well with the proportions of the brand name, fits into the various required applications and creates a bold wordmark suitable for signage.

The café

Union Yard is located on the corner of a busy junction at the heart of the Norwich business district, close to the main offices of Aviva. With competition from other cafés located nearby, we wanted to ensure Union Yard maintained a strong presence on the high street. Bold, monochrome signage adorns the front of the store, ensuring clear exterior branding. Inside, menu boards inform customers of prices and daily specials.

Union Yard brand identity design

Union Yard brand identity design

Union Yard brand identity design

The print

The Union Yard wordmark and logo is applied to the vast majority of products sold in the café via a simple and cost effective rubber stamp. This covers branded card sleeves for takeaway cups and bags of loose-leaf teas. The ‘U’ logo is used on brown paper bags, tea bags and price tags for the wealth of pastries on sale.

Union Yard brand identity design

Union Yard brand identity design

Union Yard brand identity design

If you find yourself in Norwich, you can pay Union Yard a visit at 5a St. Stephens Street to grab a cup of something hot. To find out what they have on offer day-to-day, follow @unionyard on Twitter.

The Click elsewhere on Identity Designed: Asperger East Anglia.

More from The Click.


I was quite close to writing about this for my own blog but the wisps of steam over the U within the logo-type really ruin this for me. This detail works really well across the posters and collaterals on its own or with an isolated U but shows a lack of restraint above a simple and well constructed typographical resolution.

The stamp and unbleached/uncoated substrate aesthetic has a regional, handcrafted and rosted sensibility but is seriously weighted in favour of coffee (even the tea bag labels look coffee-ish). For me, if a business feels that tea has enough relevance to place it in the byline then I think that this needs to be reflected else where. A fusion of these two propositions (tea and coffee) may well have led to a more original visual solution. The result is solid but familiar and conventional.

Like! And interesting to compare against The Green Standard (http://identitydesigned.com/the-green-standard/) where I had taken issue with the highly saturated colors and store presentation. I find this brand less generic and more authentic. The use of natural colors, materials and photos works well together and is nicely contrasted by strong typography.

When it boils down to it, it’s black type on a flat coloured background. You see a lot of this style around, the rustic look, recycled paper/card, headline font. It’s not giving me an urge to go in there and order a cuppa that’s for sure. If there was a choice between Union Yard and Starbucks, I know where I would go.

Hey, wait a second! This looks almost exactly as our logo! (which, by the way, was created back in 2007) Whoever the client is, they’ve ripped you off! All they did was flipping the mark. They even got inspiration from one of our portfolio pieces (Leviv) for the type. That is, if this post ever makes it to the blog (which I doubt). Nonetheless. we will denounce the copycats on Facebook, Twitter and our own site. Get a life people!

The design is great on the eyes, but as Abbas said, I feel the urge or connection for me to want it is not as strong. The application was executed really well, I just want more.

Rodrigo: I guess you meant the _steam_ then? Not that similar in my opinion. And the logo is not “exactly like yours” in any way. In my humble opinion.

@ Rodrigo- I really hope you are joking, the marks are only remotely similar. I would hope a designer would be able to distinguish the not so subtle points of difference. It might also help to get a second opinion before making such serious accusations.

Love the comments, thanks people! Yes, I was referring to the steam. I still think is suspiciously close, with all due respect, but it doesn’t bother me, as this post has sparkled an interesting debate on where the line between inspiration and plagiarism lies.

Rodrigo – that’s assuming the creator of this brand has even seen your logo, you seem to assume they have.

They’re very similar, but originality is the holy grail. British Gas might have something to say about both logos if they wanted to be picky.

@ rodrigo… The shape of the steam is about as common as sand in the desert. Just do a google image image search for coffee logo…

Hahaha… how amusing! Seems that after this Monday’s staff meeting, all the employees at The Click oughta come and make a defensive comment. Keep them coming! Just what I expected!

It’s weird isn’t it? The way good design is like a great soundtrack to a film or a well written book. It creates stuff in your head, outside the merely visual. I get that with this identity. It’s a good combination of elements too. The name of the brand pushes is in a certain direction, I can already see leftie, bad tempered, blue collar track workers in some sort of run down steel town manning the rails and doing the jobs only tough men can do. This combined with a kind of nostalgic romantic retro futurism of rendering brings it even more to life. It makes the black and white or sepia vision from the name much more Technicolor®.

And then there’s the product itself, coffee is special. It’s scent is used like a guerilla chemical weapon all offer the world to instil feel good, positive feelings from people. Everyone knows the old trick about fresh brewed coffee or fresh bread when selling a house. It’s just one of those smells that most people know and like. Blend all this together and mix in some liberal doses of tactile materials, suitable hobo-esque distressed print and the overall effect is that you might have flashbacks of working in a steel mill, somewhere in Pittsburg. Good honest toil all helped along with lakes of piping hot honest Joe (and a £4 muffin).

The only bit I don’t like is the device over the U. It smacks of Unite (the workers union, ironically) and it’s just not needed, IMO. Either that or it should have a little more DNA in common with the rest of the identity, it’s a bit like Prince Harry. You know it’s there, it’s part of the whole thing but it’s not really part of the family (but out of politeness we will ignore that it looks a little different).

Whether I want to think of this when drinking coffee in Norwich is not really worth discussing, it’s not the point. Like any good brand it’s about the story and the feeling. It’s getting people to buy into the way they sell their stuff and in this case I think it’s a good story that will keep people coming back for another helping (before their imaginary shift at the steel mill begins again).

Rodrigo… Are you honestly suggesting that when the designer at The Click started this project he looked at your website and thought ‘hey presto’ that’s the logo for me? Utter nonsense. To suggest that they have ripped off their client is wrong and deliberately copied you is very arrogant on your part and in my opinion you’re not doing you or your agency any favours. Like Diego pointed out, stylised steam is a very common devise when designing anything related to hot drinks – meaning that your logo isn’t exactly that original either. And no I don’t work for The Click.

Hahahahahahah… @Rodrigo Suárez

I’ve just read through the comments now. Rodrigo – You card! You been at the Magic Markers® again (or maybe the peyote?), I told you about that!! Seriously man, I can understand your comments because I know there are a lot of stupid people on this rock (I could be one of them BTW) but the trick is not to buy the XL t-shirt that says ‘I’m a dick’ and wear it out and about, it gives you away (I keep mine under my bed).

If you really believe what you say then I have a couple of questions for you.

1. How did you arrive at this amazing conclusion – I would like to know.
2. Are you not worried that some anal retentive designer like me might just spend a few hours proving that you are wrong by finding logos that make yours look rather too close to theirs after posting such nonsense on a design blog.
3. How come the women at your studio are approximately 32 times more attractive than the men?

Sincerely, gareth

Whoa! What’s with the insults? Were they really necessary or is just a way to let go your frustration? If so, I’m glad to help. Otherwise, there are way more respectful ways to disagree. Like, less juvenile, don’t you think?

Hey Rodrigo.

No offence meant – apologies offered if you nose is out of joint (sincerely). It’s all meant tongue in cheek. However the essence of what I said stands. Especially about the women in your studio.

As for the less juvenile, dunno about that. Casting aspersions about the validity of a design for a coffee shop in Norwich by saying that ‘it looks like the design for my studio’ way out there in the west seems far more juvenile that saying you might want to consider putting the “i’m a dick” t-shirt safely under your bed rather than wearing it out and about. Might want to answer my first point while your about it…. before I waste any time on point 2. I believe point 3 is just down to random luck and gene selection.

1. How did you arrive at this amazing conclusion – I would like to know.

My pleasure. Joking aside, you still haven’t answered the question Rodrigo.

1. How did you arrive at this amazing conclusion – I would like to know.

All mouth, no trousers?

Love the design on Union Yard. I’ve seen the comments and looked to Cocoa’s branding portfolio and logo and I think they have a point, but still I don’t think the guy who designed Union Yard even knew of Cocoa’s work. As a matter of fact there is a logo on Flickr that is actually a rip off from this logo in Cocoa’s portfolio.

@Alex hahahahahahahaha – ok, so which came first? Pleeeeeeeeease tell me? What was I saying about anal designers with time on their hands Mr. Suárez?

In the immortal words of Aretha Franklin “who’s zoomin’ who?”

I will address a couple issues here, for clarification:

1. @Alex: I did not personally work on that logo, so I don’t know the details of the story. All I know is our client is an American retiree from Austin who came here and opened a seafood store. He came up to us with a hand drawn sketch of what he wanted. Personally, I had never seen the referred logo before, though most certainly he had. However, I’ve followed Simon Walker’s career for quite some time and believe he is a great designer. A lot of his work borrows inspiration from others, as he personally acknowledges in http://methodandcraft.com/articles/old-is-the-new-new . Like I said before, I am glad the post opened the debate as where the inspiration/plagiarism line lies. But again, I don’t know the specific details since I did not work on that specific piece.

2. @gareth Judging by the way you write and express your opinions, I assume you are very young or at the early stages of your career. Given you are so prone to insulting, I would like to learn more about your own work. I’d love to see your portfolio. This certainly will not sound good, but I’ve been awarded AIGA’s Copper Ingot, my work has been featured in HOW and Coupe magazines a couple times. Two books put our studio among the best in our country. I would like to be able to establish a more grown-up conversation from a professional perspective. Let me take a look at your work, even if it only is your sophomore class portfolio. I must say, I will not answer your posts anymore without first seeing what you got. You have seen our site and our work. You have even made comments on our personal appearance (funny, btw), so I guess it’s about time we have the same opportunity. I really look forward to it…

Hey, Rod (I think I know you well enough now to dispose of the formalities). I think you stated a fire on this thread with your initial mud slinging (they stole my heat wisp!!! – they ripped off their client – the shame, the shame). I express my opinions in a style which I see fit, I don’t go out of my way to insult people and if I do, I apologise, as I have done, that was sincere. My points are just as valid whether you see my work or not. (Same goes for everyone else and their comments, critique and comment doesn’t derive absolute value based on what people can and cannot do in life, a great opinion can come from a child or a journeyman). This is once we get past your assumption that I am a designer. I might be a writer, a journalist for an industry paper, a 62 art director who built global brands in NY, or a nigerian email fraudster who just wants to while away his lunch break on design blogs. The point is, I could be any of these. The point is I don’t say silly things like you did.

As for not answering my posts from now on, unless I get my goodies out for you to evaluate, well that’s fine, it really is, I don’t feel the need to get into a peeing contest. BUT; I’m still waiting for you to explain the first question I asked you way back , “1.How did you arrive at this amazing conclusion – I would like to know.” but you’ve danced round that like the ghost of Jackson, it would be nice to have an explanation.

Must go, have to organise the next run of “satisfy her tonight – the magic blue pill” emails before ma’ boss gets back. Have a great weekend. :)

Rodrigo, do you honestly believe that your design agency was the first to put a stylised hot steam graphic into a logo?

What I do find suspicious here is the bashing! @david, gareth, don’t take it that personal, unless you designed it! I think both parties have a point, I just agree with Rodrigo on the personal bashing being unnecessary and unprofessional. Grow up you people!

And I’d also be glad to see your work gareth! ;) Like you said “all mouth, no trousers?” hahaha…

Anna, I haven’t taken anything personal. And I certainly haven’t been bashing Rodrigo as you claim. What I find annoying is the sheer arrogance of some designers (not just Rodrigo may I add) who claim to have done things first. The other day I saw someone complaining that another designer had copied their design for using Avant Garde! I mean, come on! I just think it was extremely confident of Rodrigo to come onto a design blog and claim that another agency had deliberately copied his company and “ripped off their client”. That’s quite a bold statement to make about another professional design agency. All I asked was whether he genuinely thinks that his company was the first to stylise steam within a logo. And he hasn’t answered. If he was the first to do so then hats off to him.

Anna – first off – there’s no conspiracy, don’t worry. I don’t know David from Adam. As for unprofessional. I think we need to revisit, once again, the most amazing of statements from Rodrigo… let’s go back and look at what he said shall we?…

“Hey, wait a second! This looks almost exactly as our logo! (which, by the way, was created back in 2007) Whoever the client is, they’ve ripped you off! All they did was flipping the mark. They even got inspiration from one of our portfolio pieces (Leviv) for the type. That is, if this post ever makes it to the blog (which I doubt). Nonetheless. we will denounce the copycats on Facebook, Twitter and our own site. Get a life people!”

Now, correct me if I am wrong, but, however you cut it, this is one of the most fatuous missives I have had the pleasure to read espoused by any designer. I dunno about you any your reading habits but I think it’s is a gem.

Since he posted this, a few people want to know one answer to one question. – Can he back this up? – It’s a BIG deal to say in open, public forums that the work you are looking at is STOLEN. That’s is what he is accusing someone of, theft. And not just theft but abusing a client relationship. Now, you either prove something like this or you look like a dick. Personally, I truly believe that Rodrigo has made himself look like a Grade-A, full cream, 33% Extra FREE, no added sugar, improved recipe DICK. This is my opinion based on what he has said and, most importantly not said.

He has dodged the question because it’s stupendously obvious to anyone, even a freshman studying animal welfare, never mind a sophomore studying graphic design, that he cannot honestly prove the point he made. Then to bang on like a 16 year old teenage girl about telling her mates on Facebook about how naughty someone is and ‘renounce’ them – what is it – some sort of Anti-Pope, a false idol??? Please, save me from such childish protestations.

Then lets’ look at the his LEVIV branding for a split second. If I was Rodrigo and that work came up online I would be the first in line to point out that because of the type styling I would surmise that perhaps it looks a lot like a certain brand of denim, just as an example. But I’m not that stupid. At least not in public. In private I’m a box-fresh, top draw retard.

As for my ‘work’, as I have said before, this is not about me (I have both mouth and trousers). I have nothing to prove. It’s all about Rodrigo, we are still waiting for an answer, I doubt we’ll get one.

(as for growing up, are you serious?)

Boys, boys! @Gareth and @Rodrigo, can you two keep focused on critiquing the identity? I mean, that’s what this is meant to be all about, and debating with each other won’t go very far.

I’m sure you’re both highly skilled designers, but this behaviour is bordering on schoolboy insults and verbal arguments.


Now onto the design, I agree with the majority, the steam element is completely unnecessary, I like the industrial stamp-like quality of the type, and think that’s a nice contrast against the natural coffee. I wish there was more ink stamped onto the paper bags though, but I guess each will have an individual feel (and a handmade quality) to them.

Also, the U with the steam element on its own is a fairly strong mark, its a wonder why that wasn’t focused on instead of separating it from the logotype with the steam element.

Apart from that, well executed, really wonderful.

And here’s a thought:

Nothing is entirely original.

Yes that’s right, the majority of ideas and designs in our current existence have been thought of or created in the past, and possibly in the future. So folks, nothing is entirely original, so saying you coined a look or motif doesn’t mean you’re the first one to do so.

For example, think about the percentage of designers who think they’re being ‘unique’ that create an ‘original’ typographic poster, composed of a black background with Helvetica Bold tightly tracked/spaced in white saying either a famous quote, something amusing, an inside designer joke or the like. Now, they reckon they’re onto something, and even if they’re aware of all the other thousands of similar posters, they keep at it, thinking they’re going to strike gold with a phrase or some small detail that makes their ‘minimal, original, trendy’ poster stand out.

The moral of that is, it’s been done before. Heck, design of all areas is repeating itself, e,g, fashion is exploring vintage, same with design (which is looking back at letterpress, and clean printed work, high-quality materials that are sustainable etc, appealing to the eco-concerned demographic and so on), and more.

Let’s not quarrel over who called the shots first, truth is it’s all unoriginal to a point, but you need to strive to make your work that extra bit special. @Rodrigo your design looks fine, it seems separate from this identity, so I wouldn’t worry, mate :)

@Gareth, I respect your opinions heavily, however I feel you’re going a little too far, and pointing the finger at @Rodrigo. But each to their own, eh? If you will, I’d respect you further if you take a few minutes, think, reflect and drop the argument/insinuation/whatever. There are better things to do. :)

Enough of this negative energy everyone! C’mon, lighten up a little, let’s just enjoy the identities, ok?

Never mind the logo – taste the tea!
…it is very good tea you know
…and yes I know this is all about the logo
…but I thought the tea deserved a mention
…there are egg timers involved
…you don’t get that at Starbucks

The steam over the U creates an interesting sub logo, which is simple and clearly associated with the brand. This means that the full logo doesn’t need to be included on all applications. Love the brown paper coffee cups and the screen printed bags!

Can I just say how awesome you are, Louis. As much as I was enjoying the argument, I think the best quote from these comments is
“Now on to the design,”
You sir have made my day!
I have nothing more to say on the brand, nothing that hasn’t already been said here. Nice work though, I do love its rustic feel.

Hi everyone,

Never realised that the brand we chose to go with would cause so much talk and opposition! We wanted a rustic look and had no idea about any other designs or designers that are similar, so there is no harm intended. We chose not to extend our lease and have now been closed for quite some time, so back to Starbucks it is for all of you!

Share a thought