Printed mug humour is a strange niche. It’s a polarised landscape, with precious little middle ground between kitsch tat and downright obscenity. All too often, it’s either “My other drink is a prosecco!” or “XXXCENSOREDXXX”.
Here, we seek to navigate a path between these two extremes, bringing you genuinely comedic cups that keep it clean. We’ve chosen Etsy.com as our hunting ground, the ecommerce platform that’s home to over 5 million sellers of handmade and bespoke items. So, in no particular order, here’s our round-up of 10 funny, yet family-friendly, printed cups and mugs, along with some top tips on what you can learn from them about designing some of your own.
1. 99% of my socks are single
This is a typical example of a prevailing trend that we’re calling ‘Ceramic Cynicism’. A no-nonsense design combines the universal experience of sock wearers everywhere with a world-weary reprimand to self-pitying singletons. Just try to make your brew less bitter than the message.
Top tip: ramp up the grumpiness to cash in on the ‘Ceramic Cynicism’ trend.
2. Not yet…
Perhaps the most common theme within ‘Ceramic Cynicism’ is the hostility that you can expect from the mug-owner prior to their morning dose of coffee. Many examples of this theme use language we’d rather not repeat, but this clean version works well enough.
Top tip: the effects of coffee on the body and the temperament can be amusing areas to explore.
3. Garlic bread
Garlic? Bread? What better way to express your love for this celebrated savoury side than with this “enthusiastically” designed mug? A great gift for the individual in your party who’s fond of nabbing more than their fair share from the sharing plates.
Top tip: Sometimes, a certain amateurish charm to the artwork can actually add to the humorous effect.
4. Koala tea
Some puns are so awful that we can’t help but be tickled. This marsupial masterpiece makes you groan and chuckle at the same time. The sarcastic self-reference of the joke itself brings an extra layer, plus the way you’re forced to say “Koala Tea” in your head? Exquisite.
Top tip: combining cute imagery with some top-class pun work is a recipe for success.
5. Acute angle
Customers love to give a gift that relates to their loved one’s hobbies, interests or profession. In this case, we’re targeting students, teachers, engineers and anyone with a geometrical string to their bow. This mathematical in-joke is enough to raise a smile for those in the know.
Top tip: follow the greeting card industry in pursuing themes of interest to groups of potential recipients, and you’re bound to pick up sales within those niches.
Here’s another caption that has you repeating the message in your head, but this time it’s to the tune of the classic Queen anthem. This one’s guaranteed to bring a smile to your face, even if you have a ton of housework to get through like Freddie in the famous video.
Top tip: references from popular culture can provide a short cut to the punchline, but be careful not to infringe copyright.
On a side note, sellers of Etsy, can you please learn how to mock up your artwork properly? Five minutes on YouTube and Photoshop, and you could easily learn to make your design follow the contours of the cup. That aside, by the power of Greyskull, that’s a pun-tastic mug!
Top tip: When choosing a popular culture reference, have a look at what was trending when your target audience was 10 years old to capitalise on their nostalgia.
In 1992, fresh out of NWA, Dr Dre hooked up with emerging Hip-Hop star Snoop Doggy Dogg to release “Nuthin But A ‘G’ Thang”, the debut single from his first solo album, “The Chronic”. 30 years later, someone on Etsy changed “G” to “tea” and put it on a mug.
9. Fight for your right…
We couldn’t resist a second US-rap-based mug, especially when it features both the Beastie Boys and yet another tea-based pun. This time “party” becomes “pour tea” – simple yet effective. The energetic call to arms of the original song is transposed into the sphere of tea making, adding to the LOLs.
Top tip: Just like the Dr Dre mug, this one uses a type of humour that theorists call “incongruous juxtaposition” which provides a rich source of laughs for comedians.
10. Freak in the sheets
Spanning the worlds of professional interest, incongruous content and risqué humour, this one ticks a lot of boxes. Or should that be cells. Excel spreadsheets are not known for being sexy, so the suggestive slogan gets a laugh on the strength of its inappropriateness.
Top tip: if you can combine the strengths of more than one successful approach, you’re on to a winner.
These examples aside, the main conclusion we have to draw about the world of printed mugs on Etsy is that it is a den of absolute filth, most of which we’re unable to represent here. If you choose to delve into this world yourself, be aware that it’s a dark and sweary place filled with obscene, scatalogical and downright adult content.
Who knew the printed cups and mug scene was so edgy? There’s certainly a gap in the market for wholesome mugs that could serve as a secret Santa gift without resulting in a meeting with HR.
That said, the world of themed mugs is incredibly broad, with room for all types of humour. Anything goes, so let your imagination run free. If your ideas are up to scratch, you might even give these Etsy sellers a run for their money with your own cup-based quips.
When you do, Solopress has a great variety of styles and printing options, so be sure to explore the newly updated Cups and Mugs range.