Behind the Name: SONDER Coffee

Choosing a name and logo for our coffee shop was a long process. It took seven months to come up with our name, and another seven for the logo. But how did it even come about? And what does it mean? Well, today’s post is an inside look behind the name and logo of SONDER Coffee & Tea.


The day we decided to open up a coffee shop, we drove home brainstorming names, but for a few months, we weren’t really getting anywhere serious. I found it really hard to come up with names, and all I could think about was EMKA Coffee— a euro-lounge-style coffee house named after our cat, Emery (because he really likes tea, haha). But that wouldn’t do, plus it means nothing to Pop! And as time went on it made sense we couldn’t make a name we like fit the shop, but had to wait and see what name developed throughout the process. I made lists and lists and compiled everything that stuck at the end of the week on my name-storming worksheet (that I also made available if you’re interested). We didn’t even know what style and brand image we wanted at this point, so instead focused on the business plan and vision board to establish the foundation of our vision, which I’m glad we took the time to do.

Our Cat Loves Tea

Yes, he likes tea so much he digs it out of our cups when we’re done. Featuring a lovely green jasmine.

Once we actually got an idea of what we wanted for our shop, we met with our branding team to piece together our brand image and coffee shop vision. Toby, our marketing/branding expert and close friend, helped make sure our brand was consistent to itself and our vision throughout this whole process. It was at this meeting that we began to formulate the foundation of SONDER’s brand image.

The Tree Aspect

We talked about the atmosphere and how that would tie into the brand, but we still had a long way to go for the perfect name and brand to represent us. Yet from what we had so far, and the name/idea lists we had going, there was an image of a tree that supported our vision and values. The tree inspiration was made up of three parts:

  • Roots- connect to a source which begins the journey of sustenance and life
  • Tree (trunk)- grows solid and rooted, giving and taking
  • Branches- intertwine into a network of community and relationships as lives grow with one another; paths are connected, full of growth and life, producing sweet fruit

The idea is that water, coffee or things beyond the physical are used to create a community; whether of one or two, or many more people. This grows into something greater, and soon a network of people’s lives are crossing, growing and intertwining, and stories are shared a day at a time. Even with lack of better words, we were touched and inspired, and knew we were finally getting somewhere.

More Lists

We were going somewhere, but it still wasn’t enough. Simply a tree alone didn’t seem to communicate our vision and values, and we weren’t getting anywhere with a name either. We liked names and connotations similar to fika and hygge. We liked homey and social words like perch, linger and lounge… or water words like overflow, cascade, fountain, oasis… and more tree words like rooted, stem, bloom… something to convey our vision of life and the hub our shop would be as a network for all these lives and stories shared in a moment of time.

We had a few names arise, but they weren’t totally right. GatherBox seems pretty hipster. Kaffehus was too nordic. Birdhouse Coffee was cute, but too… birdy. ‘Burbs was pretty cool and came to mind when Nate from Corvus Coffee mentioned us “opening a shop out in the ‘burbs.” We still kind of like that one, haha. Months went by and we weren’t getting anywhere! All the words on our list were too common and simple, so inspired by Pinterest and dictionaries of obscure words, I started researching names with intricate meanings, or words not able to be communicated in the English language.

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I think we were in Starbucks actually, killing time before having to be somewhere. We were tired after business planning and bummed, possibly about feeling stuck on the name. We started reading these words, and I came across “sonder.” Then we watched the youtube video of the meaning… and it stuck. It was beautiful. It was perfect for us.

sonder (n): the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own

I don’t remember if Toby thought it was kind of weird at first, but a couple days later it really grew on him and he agreed that it totally matched our brand.


The Butterfly Aspect

We were so excited about SONDER, we started to see if we could get anywhere coming up with a logo. Lists after lists, compiling ideas, feeling like we’re getting nowhere, and making more word lists to come up with fresh ideas– this was an ongoing process. Then one day came the butterfly aspect. If you know me, I’ve always loved butterflies. Yet it was obvious we couldn’t have a girly butterfly as our shop’s logo, no way. But I’d just learned how to draw them, and I remembered this old I’d once seen of a half butterfly, half skull. So I tried it with a tree… and it made sense. The butterfly, also symbolizing life, added to the vision of the tree in a way it couldn’t have stood on it’s own.

SONDER Creating a Logo

We were finally getting somewhere again, so we sent it to Toby and decided to run with it. He recommended we work with Filip Popa, graphic designer and illustrator, for the logo, and this is where it really came alive. We had a general idea, but just a poorly drawn sketch, and needed help to make the concept come together. We got a ton of sketch ideas from Fil, and took a couple rounds to perfect it with the look we were going for. We were really inspired by the botanical look. Even though it’s not common for a logo to be this complex and intricate, we went ahead with it anyways since that is what SONDER is all about. It speaks to the seemingly contradicting reality of both the simplicity and complexity of people’s lives, and the more you look into it, the more intricate it becomes. We are so thankful to have worked with Toby and Fil, two extremely talented people, without whom we wouldn’t have a brand that we are so excited to have.

Filip Popa creating SONDER Coffee logo

Filip Popa, talented graphic designer & illustrator, coming up with logos to illustrate SONDER

The completed SONDER logo

SONDER Coffee & Tea

A story rooted, timely growing, illustrates the necessity of being grounded and rooted in life.
A story fragile, ever changing gives us the reality that life is also fragile and temporary, that tomorrow isn’t promised.

And we at SONDER Coffee & Tea, is where those stories cross; an ordinary community shop where these two realities play out behind the scenes in people’s lives. We’re a point in time where stories are unraveled and lives can be shared, to be a place to belong through a seemingly simple crossroads: a cup of coffee.

Seriously, much thanks to Toby and Fil’s work on our branding. We love our logo and the way it communicates our vision and heart behind SONDER Coffee. It’s spot on, and we’re so proud to have your creatively, skills and talent behind it! Check out more of Fil’s work on Behance to see more creative talent, intricate skill and more beautifully introspective designs.

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