Responses by Duy — N, creative director/cofounder, M — N Associates
Background: Guta Cafe is a street coffee vendor located in District 3 in Ho Chi Minh City. The objective of this project was to give Guta a refreshing brand concept and visual so it can stand out among an overcrowded coffee market in Vietnam. Targeting everyone because Vietnamese people love coffee at an affordable price, Guta needed something that represented it familiarly to customers.
Reasoning: The owner explained that the name Guta is based on a Vietnamese slang word that mixes the French words gout and gu and the Vietnamese word ta together; the term stands for “our style.” “Our style” is the street coffee style that happens everywhere in Vietnam, from small alleys to big boulevards. There’s always a plastic stool beneath customers, and it serves them well, no matter who they are. Therefore, we put the iconic stool at the center of the brand and combined it with all the surrounding environmental elements as well as the personalities of everyone sitting on the stool.
Challenges: The solution was a complex concept that needed to be simplified. We used different aspects of the overall concept and layered them one by one, and created a unique yet familiar system and maintained simplicity for our mass target audience. The brand was so successful that it soon expanded to other business models right afterward, which meant we needed to keep consistency among the newer brands. We worked hard to keeping the production moving smoothly, and at the same time, develop FONTA, a new custom typeface for Guta’s expansion.
Favorite details: That anybody, no matter who they are, can find themselves on a Guta cup. With the treatment inspired by halftone effects on newspaper printing, the characters’ faces are blurry. Therefore, only their body language speaks to who they are. Together, with the A symbol as the stool, it empowers the relationship between customer and the brand.
Visual influences: Everyday, we ride motorbikes and the images of Vietnamese people sitting on plastic stools on the pavement around the city, chatting, drinking coffee and doing their own things have become unforgotten visuals. These images have become part of our modern public culture. Moreover, the Vietnam Social Security propaganda poster was a profound inspiration for our color palette choice, representing “a friend of every worker” feeling within Guta’s environment.
Time constraints: Due to Guta’s ongoing expansion, right after the concept was approved, we had to push ourselves on a tight rolling schedule to adapt the visual system closely with other production houses and architectural vendors as well as keep creating ongoing visuals. So, right away, we had to choose nine characters to represent Vietnamese street culture and come up with a custom typeface that was easier for Guta Cafe’s expansion to new business models like Phở Ta, a pho restaurant, Fruita, a juice store, and Chợ Ta, a local convenient market.