Branding Beat - Cut Through the Noise

Getting a Handle on the Ergonomics of Coffee Mug Design

Few personalized products are as frequently used, widely fitting, and universally loved as custom coffee mugs. In fact, 83% of Americans adults drink coffee, up from 78% in 2012, and 12% of American homes have single cup brewers.

There’s no doubt then that investing in personalized mugs can help you access a huge demographic with guaranteed daily brand impressions. In fact, mugs are consistently in our top five selling items every year, so apparently, the secret is out.

Since everyone is already on the mug bandwagon, how can you set your company’s promotional product apart from the others? You can pore over the imprint and obsess over the capacity, but what you’re really missing out on is capitalizing on the handle of your customized mug.

First, what are the different handle types?


Creative cups can comfort collapsing companies.

Creative cups can comfort collapsing companies.

This is a C-handle. The handle is in the shape of a C. We’re looking at some rocket science here, guys. It’s the most popular mug handle style, but it also generally offers the least amount of space for the user’s fingers. Those with larger fingers might need to hook with two fingers to avoid pinkie squishing. On the other hand, it offers a unique opportunity for some creative marketing, which you’ll see in a minute.


Dramatic drinkware destroys doubt.

Dramatic drinkware destroys doubt.

This is a D-handle mug. The straight line of the D is not created by the straight edge of the mug but by the area of the handle where the fingers grip. People generally choose a D-handle for greater control when working with tools. This allows for more space for the fingers.


Original opportunities open-- Crap, "O" is way too hard. It'll probably fit into a drink holder, and the others probably won't. Happy?

Original opportunities open– Crap, “O” is way too hard. It’ll probably fit into a drink holder, and the others probably won’t. Happy?

This is an open-handle mug. It’s similar to a D-handle in that the fingers grip a straight handle, but the open bottom allows for unlimited pinkie space. Due to the open bottom design of the handle, it may also be able to put into drink holders, a spot that’s generally off limits for traditional mugs. You could always slip a koozie on, too!

Why does choosing a particular mug handle matter?

At the end of the day, a custom mug is a custom mug. But in some very specific circumstances, you may be able to select a mug handle to maximize your marketing dollar with a clever design or you can cater to specialized needs for a particular demographic.

Double Down on Design

For an excellent example of creative design, Firebox offers the UNT mug with a C-handle. Warning: The link will redirect you to content that may be offensive and is certainly hilarious. If your company begins with a C and you choose a mug with a handle color different from the body of the mug (such as our Majestic Mug or Java Stripe Mug), you could find yourself with a creative gift that maximizes your imprint area with a memorable design while providing a functional and frequently-used promotional gift.

The Perfect Fit

As stated above, the D handle and open handle mugs provide the greatest control and would be great for gifts targeting children or people with hand and/or arm weakness (e.g., physical therapy clients, rehabilitation outpatients, hospital inpatients). In fact, the DUO cup holder has been promoted by resources helping those with disabilities as an excellent way to adapt the more traditional C-handle mugs to a more comfortable and controlled grip.

Are there any other handle styles?

Other creative mug designs include the Spine Mug, perfect for doctors and chiropractors, or the Triple Handle Mug, which is great for celebrating third anniversaries or other 3-related events or achievements. The Aztec Spooner Mug includes a slot for a spoon right in the handle, perfect for hot cocoa enthusiasts or those who like soup on the go.

And although we don’t sell it, I gotta put the Brass Knuckles Mug out there. I’ve seen people get a little crazy before their first cup of coffee, and it’s not pretty. Best to be prepared.

How have you considered incorporating mugs into your promotional line-up? How does your newfound knowledge of mug handles shape your perspective of using custom mugs? Sound off in the comments below!

Expand Your Brand!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


Bubba is the Quality Logo Products mascot. He may have started out as "just a stress ball," but he's come a long way since the company's launch in 2003. Bubba has been immortalized in numerous vector artwork designs for internal and external promotions, and you can see him change outfits on the Quality Logo Products homepage whenever a holiday rolls around. Oh, and he thinks pants are for the birds. You can connect with Bubba on


  1. jef Grace

    I like your individual descriptions. I wish you had a ‘attachment feature’ on this comment box, so I could just send a picture…
    I have had all kinds of coffee mugs around my house, but only one of these has ever been my favorite. I originally bought several, of the same style, at a ‘seconds’ sale in a ceramic/art shop. What makes this design my favorite is in the handle. It’s a plain 12oz. heavy ‘stoneware’ mug. There is, however a ‘notch’ on the bottom of the handle in that rests on my little finger, while the other three fingers grip the ‘C’ handle. It’s perfect! I wonder if there’s a name for the ‘notch’ on this design?

  2. Jadesara

    Nice handles.. Thank you Jana Quinn.

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