CMYK19 Designathon

A visual design for a new 8x8 foot community wall at 1951 Coffee Company as part of the CMYK19 Designathon at UC Berkeley


The Client

1951’s mission statement: “1951 Coffee Company, founded in 2015, is a non-profit specialty coffee organization that promotes the well-being of the refugee community in the United States by providing job training and employment to refugees, asylees, and special immigrant visa holders while educating the surrounding community about refugee life and issues. 1951 as an organization has 3 main components — our cafes, our training program, and our advocacy program.”

The Challenge

1951 challenged the participants of the designathon to create a new 8x8 visual wall to be placed in one of their cafes. From 1951: “The visual on the wall is intended to educate people on their operating model. Often times, people either think they are just a regular cafe that has a mission on the side or they think they are a traditional nonprofit. They wanted an infographic-style visual to relay who we are and what we do as an organization. We hope this wall will attract customers through respectful and inspiring words or graphics that relay community support for the welcoming of refugees to the Bay Area.”

The Team


From left to right:

  • Victor Grajski, Master’s student at the UC Berkeley School of Information
  • Mary Zelinska, Undergraduate at UC Berkeley
  • Victoria Barto, Undergraduate at UC Berkeley
  • Kitty Thompson, Undergraduate at UC Berkeley

All of us had minimal design experience, and we were all eager to learn by doing!


During our ideation process, we quickly agreed as a team that our top priorities were to make the wall physically interactive and to enable 1951’s baristas to tell their stories. We wanted to make the wall interactive to take advantage of the physical space this wall would live in (rather than being on a screen) to entice viewers who may be across the room to come closer and engage with 1951’s mission. We wanted to focus on barista’s personal stories after the founder of 1951 described what inspired him to start 1951 in the first place: hearing someone’s journey of how they arrived in the US from Eritrea over the course of 17 years.


Team Submission

To make our wall physically interactive, our design incorporated movable panels raised above the wall that each told part of 1951’s story (cafes, training program, and advocacy). Underneath the movable panels, we aimed to feature black-and-white portraits of some of the baristas who completed the training program to help viewers build a personal connection to 1951 and its employees. Finally, at the lower part of the wall, we wanted to explain the thought process behind 1951’s color scheme since we were pleased to learn each color had a very specific meaning.


Branching Out

To further build my visual design skills, I branched off in a more minimal direction inspired by Piet Mondrian. I found placing the colored hexagons in the same area as the portraits and movable to create a lot of visual noise. By removing the hexagons from that area, that freed up space to add personal narratives from the people in the photos to help build even more of a personal connection with the viewer, and I also wanted to give viewers from across the room more reasons to approach the wall and explore it. In that vain, I redirected the colored hexagon elements into post-its so viewers could tell their own story to the community.



I’m very grateful for how empathetically our team approached the challenge. From the start, we all agreed we wanted to convey how above and beyond 1951 goes for its baristas and its customers, and we baked in that empathy and personal connection from the beginning. With only a few hours of design time, I learned how important planning is before even opening Illustrator. By having a clear idea of what we were doing and why before opening Illustrator, I belive our final product conveyed what 1951 challenged us to do. That did mean we had less time to iterate on our final product visually, and because of that, I was inspired to branch off on my own visual direction while staying true to our pillars of physical interactivity and personal storytelling.