Mercury Cafe


Logo design for restaurant

In 2015, while producing the monthly film programme/newspaper for Kitchener, Ontario's Apollo Cinema, I worked with the cinema's owners to develop the branding for their new business venture: the Mercury Cafe.

Located next door to the Apollo, the Mercury operated in a somewhat unique business model. During the day, the cafe served coffee, pastries, and lunchtime meals.In the evenings, when the cafe was closed to the public, the kitchen would reopen and handle the food service for the Apollo (which offers an in-cinema menu and table-service during its film screenings).

Like the Apollo Cinema, the Mercury Cafe was named after one of the gods of classical Roman mythology. While the restaurant's décor would play with uses of the word mercury (e.g. the car brand or space programme), for the branding itself, the idea was to connect it to the god, since the Apollo's logo was based around a stylized sun as a nod to its namesake's iconography.

The symbols historically linked with the Mercury are the talaria (winged sandals), the petasus (winged hat), or a caduceus (a staff with two snakes entwined around it – a visual pretty much owned by the medical field). A search of Mercury-named businesses revealed that the talaria and petasus had been thoroughly exploited in a manners both clever and clunky, and I decided any logo I developed would focus only on the feathered wing, casting aside the sandal and hat.

After some disastrous first attempts that tried to repurpose the Apollo's aesthetic and typography (the less said about this design misstep the better, but for the morbidly curious I've included an example to the left).

For the first real concept I developed a logo that used a feathered wing, but in a modern way. A coffee cup with a “steam wing” evoked Mercury without being overly literal. This illustration was set within a somewhat abstract M to create an element could be used as a standalone icon, but still worked with the full logo. This full logo employed typography that I considered quite friendly, and down-to-earth.

I was quite proud of this logo, though it was a little too slick for the DIY aesthetic for which the Mercury's owners were aiming to create within the restaurant itself. After abandoning the concept wholesale, I turned back to some earlier, abandoned concepts. One of these concepts had used the idea of a single feather, which could have come from either of Mercury's winged accessories. This revised logo was designed to much simpler than my first version.

Alternate versions of this logo.

To reduce startup costs, things like the cafe's paper napkins, disposable coffee sleeves and cups would be branded with a rubber stamp. As a result the idea of colour playing a key role in the logo was set aside. In this concept, the feather replaced the M as a standalone device.