Naming, concept and brand identity for NUK Cafe in Phnom Penh

Nuk Cafe, Design by DK 2014A VERY SAVVY team approached Design Kompany through a mutual friend and that opened the door to a fun project that tapped all of our best creative offerings. Naming, concepting, and brand identity design. That was exactly what they didn’t know they wanted, but appreciated, at the end, in the manner of clients preceding them. ‘NUK’ came about as a name idea after a series of serious conversations, and a visit to the site, which was then under construction.

Nuk Cafe, Design by DK 2014
Nuk Cafe, Design by DK 2014

NUK Cafe
Work: Concept, Naming, Brand identity + consulting on interior design
Location: Phnom Penh
Year: 2014

Naming, concepting, and brand identity design. ‘NUK’ came about as a name idea after a series of serious conversations, and a visit to the architectural site. A section towards the back of the first floor seemed well-suited to holing up with a great paperback. That’s how we found our way to the name ‘NUK,’ a play on ‘nook, but minus the visually awkward double ‘o.’

Fewer letters—heck, even just an ‘N’—made for a versatile motif that one could just take in as a total image (that’s what a logo mark is, more than ever, just an impression, not a ‘word’ to be read—who has time to think?). As soon as we presented the name idea to our clients, three people got on cell phones and called friends in Vietnam, Thailand, and even further afield via Line and WhatsApp. ‘How does that sound? Does it mean anything bad? No? Good.’ Nuk fit. Snug.

Many times designers will do what you tell them to do. But you two would not. You would say, ‘No. That’s not a good idea, and we’re not gonna do that.’ That was new. You made us think, and in the end, we got to a stronger design together. Thank you. —Kenneth Hui, NUK Cafe

NUK opened on Street 154, and our clients invited us to sample the ice cream. Last we heard, they’re gearing up to open a second store.

Toe selfies

‘EVERYTHING. Like crossed feet at the beach or in front of the pool going on instagram. Those.’


Today I Love You // By Dipika Kohli 2012
Today I Love You // Dipika Kohli 2012


‘Oh, well, that’s a bit better. But you can’t call it the other thing.’

‘What other thing?’

‘Didn’t you say lifestyle design, earlier? I mean, you can’t do that, no way, not now. Two years ago, maybe. Because today, it doesn’t mean what you think it means.’


‘I just mean, to you and me, design is about how to make our life better, how to create the life we really want by looking for opportunities and, ideally, creating value for other people so we can make a life doing what we’re good at and what we’re getting better at as a—‘

‘Like that Warren Buffet thing?’

‘Yeah, yeah. Anyway, to you and me design means one thing. It’s about the way we think about how to create the life we really want. Once we examine, that is, what it is we care about. Remember how you did that event, Big D Design?’

‘And no one came, except Sipheng Lim. That was cool. What’s he doing now, anyway? I haven’t seen him around.’

‘He’s making films. You haven’t been around. Are you listening?’

‘Hm. Uh-huh.’

‘Yeah, but it was just too big a concept, you know? Design is, to most people, about photoshop.’


‘So you can’t say that. Lifestyle design, I mean, you can’t say that.’

‘But that’s what it is.’

‘But that’s not what it means anymore.’

‘Whaddyou mean?’

‘I mean, it’s been co-opted. The word lifestyle design doesn’t mean using design principles as a tool to make your life better.’

‘It means pictures on the beach of people’s feet.’

‘Feet pictures. Yeah, those.’ *Shrugs* ‘I guess people like taking those now. It’s not my thing, but you know. Feet.’

‘Toes. Toe selfies.’

‘Okay, okay. What if I just call it, SIMPLICITY. Set it up for early March?’


‘Too esoteric?’

‘Just, yeah. And you’re always wanting to just press go on everything so quickly. Oh, well. It’s you, I guess. So do it, try it. Gotta say, you seem to have a knack for this sort of thing, sometimes.’

‘What sort of thing?’

‘Seeing what people really want to talk about.’

Sometimes. But I have a good feeling about this one.’

*Looks dubious*

‘Simplicity. Simplicate and add lightness and stuff. Design-y, but not overstated. Overstating is such bollix. Leave it open, so people who come can help design it, you know? Open it up. Eco and stuff. Open works.’

‘I never could finish a page of Eco.’

‘That was a good idea, though. Co-creating. It’s just not hot right now. It’s not a popular way of doing stuff because people are obsessed with me-ism.’


‘Everything. Like crossed feet at the beach or in front of the pool going on instagram. Those.’



‘Toe selfies.’

‘I wonder what people would think about those.’


Jai Ranganathan: ‘Sharpen and heighten’

OFFLINE CONVERSATIONS lately are turning to the process itself, and, to take it further, discoveries that happen on the way to ‘making.’ Maybe it’s in the air? Looking back on what creative people have told me about this work of making, I recalled something I learned from science podcaster Jai Ranganathan. (Find him on twitter at @jranganathan.) We had met at a science conference in NC’s Research Triangle Park. That was the kind of place where bunches of people convened to share tips on making science interesting to a general audience, more or less, and I discovered Jai was set to instruct scientists at University of California Santa Barbara on how to use social media.

Conversations about sharing discoveries inspired this interview with Jai Ranganathan.

DK: What do you need to think about when opening a wide-open project like a podcast? That’s a pretty big blank canvas.

JR: First, define your purpose. Then, what’s your scope? Do you want to be a local brand? Have a national audience? If you want a large audience, people really go for video.

DK: OK. So if you know your purpose, then what? Any tips?

JR: Sure.

  1. Think about where can you add value. Ask businesses, ‘What’s a problem you have?,’ and then share, ‘Here’s how we might solve it.’
  2. Give your product away so people want to know more.
  3. You can do latest tips. Interviews. You could have seminars.
  4. Just get started. Do it frequently. Keep it short—2 minutes.

DK: Wait, so you just have to be prolific?

JR: You don’t have to be flashy, or always funny, or the best-looking. But you have to be compelling in your voice. Be engaged, animated, and interesting.

DK: But what about talent?

JR: Talent is overrated. You have to be interesting/entertaining first, or else it doesn’t matter what you have to say!

DK: How do you do that?

JR: Boring podcasts are that way because people are checking boxes off a how-to list, as opposed to doing something that’s really them. Anything creative like this—podcasting, video, or writing—is about deciding what you want to say, and what’s your way of saying it. How to make that your own is key.

DK: How did you get into this?

JR: I was doing my postdoc in conservation biology. If you’re not a scientist, your job is to write papers. I was disenchanted after a while. How likely was it that what I wrote would lead to action? So as a hobby, I started interviewing scientists. I’ve always really liked radio. Someone found me and offered to pay me to do this, so now I have $2,000 broadcast-quality equipment and I make a good living. But, I had hoped more people would listen.

DK: What can others learn?

JR: It takes a while to figure out what you’re doing and why the heck you’re doing it. Don’t make it too scripted. You can have a script, but don’t read it. Imagine somebody giving a talk and reading a script–it’s death! And you know, you have to like doing it. And keep doing it, that’s key. Don’t wait to get good. No one sprouts out of the earth fully formed.

First published in S P A C E

S P A C E || End of grade testing

AMERICAN BUSINESS and education needs to dump today’s cubicle and classroom.

The way we’re taught drives us to focus on a task until it’s completed, then move on to the next.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

But truly, we can only focus for three minutes.

We also slice the world into parts that we can relate to.

“That’s how the visual cortex works. We think we see the world, but we only see a very particular part of it,” said Duke professor Cathy Davidson, whom I went to see read from her new book, Now You See It, at the Regulator last night.

“Our ability to pinpoint a problem and solve it — a skill honed by years of school — may be our limitation.”

If work and school want to catch up to momentous change in how we communicate, interact, and think, we have to toss outmoded ideas like you have to concentrate on something for an hour and you have to finish x before you start on y.


Because if you’re too narrowly concentrating on one way of thinking, you miss out on a million other ones that float right by.

“The more urgent in one way of thinking, the more oblivious we are to others.”

She tells of us an experiment where people are asked to count basketballs in a room, and only a tenth notice a massive gorilla walking by. Academics failed to note the gorilla more often than non-academics, she said, because “they really like to do well on tests.”

The system of testing and idolizing “correctness” misses the point.

The point is being able to see what else is out there.

Other ways of thinking. Other people’s points of views.

Americans tend to devalue the intelligence of children, people with disabilities, and people of other cultures, Davidson said. But a project like the “Human Library,” where children can “check out” an elder for a day and walk around asking any question they want, can really open the eyes of young and old.

End of grade testing

“KIDS, TEACHERS, and parents everywhere get nightmares in March.”

But the best teachers, Davidson said, have a kind of cynical optimism. They run creative programs through the year. They do their best when March comes, and it’s time to teach the test.

Being allowed to explore just isn’t part of the American business and school curriculum.

Rather than insist on your way of thinking—and trying to argue your way to persuade others—a better way to be is open.

Look for possibilities


Unlearn the patterns of focus and attention that have corded your ability to see what else is there.

Figure “a way out of your own mind,” because attention limits perspectives.

Here’s what’s hindering us:

  • Limited perspectives. The inability to see what’s outside a given boundary hinders the kind of creative thinking we need to replace what’s rote.
  • “Attention blindness.” Focus on one problem can only last three minutes. During that time, we’re so particular on getting it accomplished that we tend to miss potentially more interesting things that float outside that frame.
  • Outmoded approach. Lesson plans and tests are designed for today’s kids’ great great great great grandparents. Davidson said in her time, you had to stand when a doctor entered the room.
  • Truncated ideas about the nature of work. “When one is not gainfully employed, one is not important.” Teachers aren’t valued. People who aren’t in a role of “job” are not considered.


In the whole of human history, never have we been able to talk to so many so fast. Yet our ways of approaching teaching and the layouts of offices don’t reflect the novel shift.

The Internet shift has created millions of opportunites for people to create their own work environments through virtual connections. Yet the mindset of most Americans continues to be “You don’t count unless you’re gainfully employed.” (Akira is writing a blog about the coworking option at Gin & Watercooler.)

President Obama nominated Cathy Davidson for the National Council on the Humanities. She teaches interdisciplinary studies at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute at Duke University. She co-founded a “collaboratory”, which claims to be “a network of educators dedicated to new modes of learning for the digital age.”

Several dozen teachers, psychologists, teens, and the likes of DK came to learn something new.

Teachers in the crowd who were retired, or parents with kids newly in school, complained a lot about school system. This reminded me of a talk by neuroscientist John Medina on Brain Rules. Play really matters. Recess is where learning happens for kids, he’d said.

I wanna break free
‘Just what is it that you want to do?’ ‘Loaded’ by Primal Scream


In a pre-DK life, I taught.

At Durham Tech, I taught basic math.

In Ireland, I taught older folks about the Internet and a middle school boys about porn.

Just kidding.

About Photoshop. (I had to get their attention, so one day one I go, “What’s the most widely searched term on the Net?” And one kid, who had given me a hard time about my accent, goes, “Porn, heh.” And I said, “That’s exactly right!”)

Wait, you missed that?

You mean you weren’t paying attention when I said PORN!?

(Hey, do I get a bunch of hits to this site now, since I said PORN?)

The dialogue

I’m very excited to hear someone pointing out that thinking about solutions from multiple angles is really important. (And that this person is someone other than Akira Morita, my partner in life and work here at DK.)

But I feel the book might be trying to brush over too many topics at once. I’ve focused on just one aspect here–the need to be able to think creatively—but there was a bunch of other stuff like why people who are Internet users don’t need as much antidepressant medicine, how older people find community online, and some stuff about Movable Type.

I wouldn’t recommend buying the book. It might be a little convoluted when it comes to exploring one topic with depth and clarity.

I’m also a little miffed Davidson seemed to misattribute a famous theory to someone who tweeted. “He called it, ‘the butterfly effect,’” she said.

Initial conditions at one place in a system can result in large differences to a later state, like a butterfly’s wings. “That’s just how he writes. Not bad for a retired guy.”

Hmmmmm. You can read all about chaos and the butterfly effect here.

But did I detect a bit of bias against retirees? That seemed to go against everything up until that point about how the Internet community can help older people feel more in touch, important, and valued.

I wasn’t sure how I felt about the attitude, too, towards kids in “schools where they had subsidized lunches.”

But I would welcome a dialogue with any of you who think there’s more to say about psychology, work, and play. That’s the big work we’re doing next. Orangutan Swing with Design Kompany.

Just to, you know, let the orangutan out of the bag.