The topic of branding is a complex and ties into elements of design, perception and human psychology.

Coffee shop design and decor is important for two reasons:

  • to establish value in the mind of consumers or potential consumers; and
  • to provide a space that supports your brand experience.

Consumers use visual cues to form their impression of retail brands. It also allows them to expect the value of products and services.  Studies have shown a strong correlation between visual perception and taste.  Retail decor can not only make a good first impression, but can improve the perceived taste of beverages.

There is no single model of how retail coffee shops must be designed, nor features that must be included in every circumstance. Every business should choose a retail format and design elements that project the brand’s unique statement (“We’re good,” “We’re fast,” or “We’re cheap”), while also creating a desirable environment for consumers.

Common elements like “comfy chairs,” consignment artwork and local memorabilia creates brand confusion.  This approach makes your design the same as thousands of similar businesses in markets across the country. Generic garage sale decor can create a preconception of mediocre food and beverages. So many other mediocre coffee shops use the same materials, customers have come to expect this as a signal of poor quality beverages.

Remember that the goal of a retail coffee business to make people comfortable. It is to sell coffee, which does not need to include the addition of living room furniture.

Decor modeled on the 1990’s cafe set from the television show “Friends”  will not create a unique identity for consumers to remember.  It’s more likely to remind them of 20,000 commoditized QSR chain outlets. The world’s most successful retail brands offer a consistent and uniquely identifiable experience.  That cannot be confused with their competitors.  Determine what aspect of your business is unique and then design an environment that is original.

Unique Coffee Shop Design – Central Bean U.K.

Central Bean Coffee, Newcastle

Central Bean Coffee, Newcastle

Take for example,Central Bean Coffee of Newcastle, England at the company’s flagship location. Central Bean was founded with a mission to redevelop the Northern England coffee landscape.  They introduced a new concept to Newcastle that combines innovative design with well prepared drinks.

The company’s core values of:

  • exceptional beverage quality
  • innovation in design and process, and
  • brand experience consistency

…are projected by the decor created by sister company Fluid Design Solutions.


Central Bean’s design comes from the American Pacific Northwest, which is known for coffee culture.  The company supported its brand identity by incorporating stone and wood elements.  These elements are closely associated with the region. A totem pole sits guard at the entrance.

This unique branding element makes a statement that the experience within will be different from other coffee chains in town.


The layout of custom designed furniture in 3 separate spaces is an innovation. The first has a standing bar and high-table chairs for business commuter on his or hear way to work at nearby offices. The second, a seated area for coffee and business or personal conversations. The third area features a recreation-style space for casual gatherings. The color scheme represents a modern and playful interpretation of earth, foliage, sky and water.

The clean and professional but playful space draws on a desire for professionalism.  Branding appears on tables, furniture, glass partitions and even espresso equipment.

Engaging decor does not always need to be expensive or represent the cutting edge of interior coffee shop design. Depending on the image of the business, positive theme elements can be as simple an exposed brick wall or plain stainless steel counter.

When selecting coffee shop design elements, define the core values of their brand in 3 simple words. Pick your own words and phrases to describe the business:

  • exclusive
  • exotic
  • corporate
  • youthful
  • fun
  • stuffy
  • anarchist (?)

These are the starting point for any strong brand image and coffee shop design ideas. Pick words that represent how you want the business be seen and then match decor that represent those words.

After defining brand message, decor is not necessarily difficult. Maintaining a corporate culture that embodies the brand message is a far more complex.  The business will need to act the way it looks to be believable.