Brand Ahoy! Say hello to Sugar Boat, a branding and design adventure


Sketches look good on paper and ideas sound fun over a coffee, or maybe something stronger. Design thoughts can be perfect in a pitch and folk blown away when brainstorming. There is, however, nothing quite like the buzz of seeing a branding project come together in the big bad world, engaging with real people and being tested without a parachute.

A big smile on our faces then, when we saw Sugar Boat open its doors to an expectant public after having spent the last few months crafting the brand, designing everything from logos to menus, from beer mats to drinks books, from takeaway coffee cups to hand-painted signage. All done in tandem with a client who was positive, enthusiastic and open to ideas. That always gets a big thumbs up from any design agency!

Sugar Boat - Design - Branding - Bistro - Restaurant

What started as a chat with Will, our client whose sterling reputation and obvious passion ensured our interest was piqued from the word go, has become a beautifully executed neighbourhood bistro and a project of which we’re extremely proud to add to our portfolio.


The brief from day one was to create a premium brand that was soft, approachable and local. ‘Sugar Boat’ is derived from a local landmark; a ship (originally called MV Captayannis) which ran aground en route to the Tate & Lyle refinery thus condemning its sugary cargo to a watery grave, dissolving into the Firth of Clyde like a spoonful of sugar being stirred gently into a cup of morning tea. The wreck itself (no-one was hurt!) quickly became a popular haunt for local children to fish and also a bird sanctuary which a vast number of cormorants called home. These cormorants would come in pretty handy for us later…

We spent lots of time chatting to Will to get his first-hand vision for the venue, understand the ambiance he’d like to create and get to grips with the target market and brand positioning. Once we had this down, we got stuck into creating the visual identity, the brand toolkit from which everything else could grow. As a neighbourhood bistro, cafe and wine shop, Sugar Boat had to speak to lots of people at lots of different times so a brand with depth was required. With that in mind we created a number of secondary and sub logos which could be applied across the business, be it a subtle ‘S’ sticker for off-sales wine bags, a porthole to be frosted into the entrance door or embossed onto leather drinks menu covers. Those afore-mentioned cormorants injected some character, humour and fun into the brand and could be added on their own into certain areas, whether in menu design, perched on typography or even on the bespoke water bottles.


A great part of brand building is collaboration. We love working with other talented and passionate creatives so, as a Glasgow-based creative agency, we were quickly on the blower to uber-skilled sign writer and Glaswegian urban legend Ciaran Glöbel of ‘Glöbel Bros Signs & Designs’. A champion of traditional techniques and lettercraft, Ciaran grafted through the night to help us create a striking, hand-painted fascia sign and also a circular projection sign (fitted with rope for extra rustic points), which really makes the venue pop.

Sugar Boat Signage

The final leg of our brand journey with Sugar Boat was photographing the venue and making the final edits before launching the website. Launching a restaurant means dealing with curve balls not just daily, but sometimes minute by minute, so when tradesmen were onsite as we arrived with our gear.. we just had to suck it up and make it happen! Fortunately for us, the interior by our pals at Surface-id is fantastic, full of instagrammable details, premium finishes and funky light fittings. Returning to Scotland after a successful career in London, Sugar Boat’s head chef Scott is also at the top of his game and not only was he dealing with rogue KPs, late deliveries and dodgy drainage, he plated up some genuinely outstanding food for us to snap.

Sugar Boat - Restaurant - Branding - Design - Photography - Saved By Robots

After a long day at the office, the shoot was complete and we managed to blag a couple of beers from Will and shared stories and experiences about being a small business and trying to bring your vision to the people. We created the website to be clean, premium and really image-driven; it is easy to navigate and offers maximum opportunity for booking conversions. Check it out here.

With the site live, the Sugar Boat brand was thriving both in print and online. From the moment you google it to the moment you see the hand-painted signs; from first read of the menu to running your finger across the subtly-embossed leather drinks booklets; from the ‘GULP!’ branded beer mat on which you can rest your chilled beer, to the tongue-in-cheek ‘THE DAMAGE’ card which accompanies the bill, you’ll experience a brand which we’ve carefully developed across a number of months.

We’re looking forward to staying involved with Will, Sugar Boat and watching this engaging brand grow and develop. For now, we’d like to wish the crew good luck and thank Will for putting his trust in us. Check it out, it’s just a few stops on the train from Glasgow and is absolutely worth the visit.


We’re passionate about great branding, if you’ve an idea that needs brought to life or just want to catch up for a coffee and talk shop with a creative agency who care, then pop over to our site and get in touch.