Provoking a coffee ritual

Discovering how making coffee sets my day into a thoughtful motion

Cathryn Ploehn, MDes
3 min readOct 24, 2023

tools used: GoPro, phone, pen, paper
instructor: Cathryn Ploehn
course: Design Studio 1 DES 304
timeline: 5 weeks

Phase I: discovering the movement power of coffee ritual

By conducting an autoethnography and creating a journeymap, I discovered that making coffee is a physically-oriented morning ritual that kicks of the forward motion of my day.

A journeymap showing my typical coffee making process. The open spaces (in green) determine how my day goes.

An autoethnography revealed an energetic catapult

Using a GoPro, I recorded my process of making coffee, discovering the embodied detail previously unnoticed.

The tools and materials in my coffee making process.
The final satisfying moment (crusis) of my coffee making process.

Creating a journeymap helped me identify areas for openness and provocation

I created a journeymap to summarize my autoethnography / coffee making project, discovering both embodied detail and and openings for variability and nudging within.

Key takeaways

Open areas for provocation. In my coffee ritual, I discovered two areas that had a lot of variability to them. I wondered how changing these areas might affect the rest of my ritual / morning.

Embodied details are not on the mind. In documenting this process, I realized the sheer amount of details I’ve built into the process — an almost muscle memory — all intended to optimize the efficiency of the coffee making process and taste. I didn’t scrutinize these details, though, as I performed them. My arms simply swung into motion.

Phase II: Nudging thoughtless into thoughtful

By creating a nudge to remove distractions from my coffee ritual, I discovered a way to kick my day off thoughtfully.

My nudge for removing my biggest distraction, YouTube, from my morning routine.

Phase III: Imagining a world of collective thoughtfulness

By creating a speculative design about collective thoughtfulness in drinking coffee, I realized I should continue to advocate for this attitude in my everyday coffee ritual.

Lessons and reflections

Autoethnography and journeymaps barely contain a fraction of the multitudes. I realized it was very difficult to fully encapsulate my experience using interaction design tools. Certain moments / measuring my activity were hard to capture.

YouTube is an addictive substance. Despite my one day of thoughtfulness, I realized my nudges weren’t enough to keep my coffee ritual as thoughtful as I’d like.

Continue to pull the threads of intellectualism and thoughtfulness. With my speculative design as inspiration, I hope to continue advocating for thoughtful morning interaction.



Cathryn Ploehn, MDes

Data viz, computational design, interaction design / Professor at UT Austin / MDes Carnegie Mellon