Explaining its views on coffee, illy argues “If coffee is experienced with all five senses, the very objects that hold coffee should please the eye.” Given that brand philosophy, the Trieste, Italy-based coffee company sought to elevate the humble coffee cup “to meld the sensory pleasures of coffee and art.” In 1992, it commissioned renowned architect Matteo Thun to design what is now the iconic illy espresso cup. From there, illy asked some of the world’s foremost artists to use the white ceramic surface as a canvas for their original art. The illy Art Collection was born. Over the past two decades, some 70 artists, including such contemporary masters as Robert Rauschenberg, Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel, have contributed to the collection. The cups and saucers in the illy Collection can themselves be appreciated as works of art worthy of display in galleries and exhibitions.
More recently, illy has expressed its natural affinity to art and culture through the creation of a cultural salon to present internationally renowned personalities from the worlds of art, literature, science, design and food and wine. When compared to the brand positioning of other coffee giants such as Starbucks and Peet’s, illy’s brand personality is decidedly intellectual, artsy and high-brow. Coffee is just one of the arts that illy supports.