The Mugs of Chronicle

The other day I was thinking about how we identify with design in our daily lives. Not in any high-flown way, but just how we tend to surround ourselves on a day to day basis with the design tropes that make us happy. And it occurred to me that one place people do this—perhaps especially people around a creative office environment—is with their coffee mugs. We choose mugs that say something about ourselves; mugs featuring artists or brands we admire, or carrying humor or kitsch caché that makes us chuckle, or representing fond memories we like to recall. These humble icons of design become, oddly enough, touchstones and talismans for our creative selves. Sound far-fetched? Read on! I polled a bunch of lovely Chronicle coworkers about their favorite mugs, and the results (indeed, like the colleagues themselves) were charming, funny, quirky, and unexpected.


Artists. From Adam’s Steve Light mug to Peter’s Edward Gorey one, the arty kids rock artist mugs.

amy_starr king debra_moby dicks

Loyalty. Amy shows her school spirit with her Starr King mug, Debra supports her favorite east coast eatery Moby Dick’s.

dave_jabberjaw diane_c-span


Memories. Dave recalls his punk rock days attending shows at L.A.’s Jabberjaw, Diane proudly proclaims her first job interning at C-Span, Tera once took an elephant for a walk.

andrew_star-trek-beam-us-down elizabeth_mary-tyler-moore-show-newsroom

Pop culture. Or more specifically vintage TV shows: Andrew and his Star Trek mug, Elizabeth and her WJM newsroom mug (where Mary Tyler Moore worked on the Mary Tyler Moore show).



Unable to commit: Like Naomi, who has three different Moomin mugs plus a pretty blue floral mug just for drinking evening tea at home, I personally find there are too many appealing mug choices to pick just one—my top four are Zabar’s, Marimekko, Pantone, and We Are Happy To Serve You (apparently I like design brands and New York eateries).


Bizarre. Courtney wins hands down in the cool/terrifying category with her amazing owl mug.

emily_made-it-herself emily-d_made-by-emily-h

Handcrafted. We’re actually graced, around this joint, with the presence of a real live potter—Emily H. uses one of her own hand-thrown mugs, as does her colleague Emily D.

laura-lee_monogram erynn_scrabble

Letterforms. Who can resist stuff with their own initial on it? Laura Lee’s monogram mug is a chic as she herself is, while Erynn reveals her word nerd tendencies with her Scrabble letter mug.



Bookish. Genny is proud that she attended the LA Times Festival of Books in 2008, Marie sports proofreader’s marks and fairytale villainesses on hers.


Hipster. This mustache mug is Jane’s, but Phuong has one too, and they both swear by its awesomeness.



Obsessions. From unicorns to Alice to Harry Potter, Jenifer’s mug choices seem to reveal a penchant for the fantastical (the “subrighteous” publishing in-joke mug being a bit of an outlier) while Lara proudly proclaims her fascination with the British royal family.

michael_big-red kerri_cafe-lo-cubano

Big and red. Michael and Kerri both believe that the most important things for a mug to be are first: large and second: red.


Novelty: Wendy’s Denny’s mug changes color when you pour hot beverages into it. Enough said.

Bridget Watson Payne

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Bridget Watson Payne

Senior Editor, Art Publishing. You can follow her at @WatsonPayne and read about her latest projects at

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