New York's greatest design icons: from Macy's balloons to the Yankees logo.
Whether crumpled in a trashcan or stacked on the shelves of the Museum of Modern Art design store, the New York coffee cup is instantly recognisable with its white-on-blue stencil, Greek key trim and three golden cups of steaming brew beneath the chiselled message, “We are happy to serve you”.
It is the to-go paper cup that launched a thousand Manhattan meetings (every morning) and served as instant shorthand for readymade New York attitude on innumerable television shows, from NYPD Blue to Mad Men.
Leslie Buck designed the paper coffee cup in 1963 as a gimmick to appeal to the Greeks who had taken ownership of many of the city’s coffee shops. Buck (originally Laszlo Büch, a concentration camp survivor from Ukraine) was an executive of the Sherri Cup Company in Connecticut. He made the cup blue and white like the Greek flag, added amphora-shaped vessels to the seams and called it the Anthora. It was an instant success.
At its peak in 2004, the company sold 500m of the cups, before merging into the Solo Cup Company. Ultimately, the cup design was retired from active sales, and took up a profitable new life as an iconic graphic appearing on key chains, cufflinks and ceramic mugs. Sightings of the real thing have become rare these days, as are the Greek diners themselves.
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