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

Editor’s note: Updated February 2024

Arriving in Phnom Penh in 2014, there wasn’t a lot of room for creating brand identity designs of the style we used to make in Seattle. Simply put, there wasn’t an awareness of the value of what branding can be for a company, at that time. Things have changed a lot since then and more people in Cambodia have begun to put more thought into the marketing messages that they want to design for their products, goods, and services. This is all very exciting.

One of the first projects in branding that Design Kompany did was in 2014. It was for a cafe. The cafe didn’t have a name yet, not something solid, so the co-owners let DK try our hand at providing some naming consulting for them. That’s how we came on the name, NUK. It took time and learning, the six-step process of what we know works for small businesses seeking to establish their visual design identity, and also, trust. The hallmark of being able to find your way in southeast Asia to do business is being able to build rapport. 


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