Panera's ugly holiday cups come from viral TikTok designer Emily Zugay

Collaboration yields questionably designed cups encapsulating a 2021 trend

Published On
Dec 02, 2021
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Just as consistently as Kris Kringle’s promise to take to the skies, a brand’s festive cup is certain to make headlines each year. This year, some holiday drink receptacles are notable for a surprisingly delightful reason: they’re ugly.

However, they’re intentionally ugly. Panera Bread teamed with TikTok sensation Emily Zugay to design its 2021 holiday reusable cup collection. Zugay is popular for redesigning popular brand logos in ways she finds more representative, frequently using stock fonts, Microsoft Paint-esque drawings and misspelled words.

"Holiday coffee cups are a well-known phenomenon at this time of the year. The idea of getting to design Panera’s with a satirical spin was something I couldn’t say no to!" Zugay said in a statement to Ad Age showcasing her style. "Obviously, they wanted to partner with me because I am the greatest designer.”

Her work for Panera Bread, led by agency Alison Brod Marketing + Communications, seems a culmination of her viral aesthetic. Two of the four original designs include blobs that allegedly represent reindeer and gingerbread men. The reindeer cup features the text “RAINDEER” across the front in a spunky rainbow gradient and is surrounded by the misspelled names of Santa’s reindeer haphazardly sprinkled around the perimeter.

Another cup is a spot the difference challenge with four snowmen pictured, but the differences are perhaps more obvious than the similarities. This reporter’s favorite cup sports a minimalist blue and white pattern with one snowflake drawn on the front with the word “snowflakes” printed over it.

“With anything that I 'design,' I don’t allow myself to think about it for too long,” explained Zugay. “If I do, it can take the fun out of it for me. So, I go into it with a very general idea of what I want it to look like. For the Panera cups, I knew what I wanted each theme to be. During the 'design process,' that is when I incorporate the jokes. It’s a lot of fun to not take it too seriously! With that being said, I only allowed myself about a half hour to an hour for each cup’s design.”

To win one of the limited line of Panera cups, graphic design enthusiasts can enter for free on the campaign’s website. The cups are part of the restaurant chain’s advertising push behind its MyPanera+ coffee subscription. Caffeine guzzlers can purchase two months of unlimited Panera coffee for $15, three months for $20 or a recurring subscription for $8.99 per month.

“We’re so excited to do something different from the rest this year with our 2021 Ugly Holiday Cup Collection launch in collaboration with TikTok sensation, Emily Zugay,” Eduardo Luz, Panera’s chief brand and concept officer, said in a statement.