Red cup, or blue cup?

Connecting students through a colour-coded coffee station.

Carina Yu
Carina Yu
Sep 22, 2019 · 3 min read

I love going to cafes. It is a shared space with limitless possibilities.

You could find your focus in a private corner with your laptop; you could share some delicious pastries with your friends; and very occasionally, you could encounter someone new over the scent of coffee beans, and hear the stories of someone you would never had crossed paths with otherwise.

As social animals, we all have a desire to connect with others. But there are many concerns associated with talking to strangers. We don’t want to be a disturbance, we don’t want to handle awkwardness, we don’t want to be rejected.

This led me to think:

What if we use the colour of coffee cups to signal whether we are open for conversations or not?

So I designed a coffee station with 3 simple rules.

  • Choosing a red cup means that you are open to conversations.
  • Choosing a blue cup means that you want some personal time.
  • Take some coffee and enjoy!
Promoting the coffee station all over my campus.

The day

After I set up the coffee station in the student lounge, I sat nearby and observed how people interacted with it.

Unfortunately, the coffee machine broke down multiple times that day. I was running around to make sure that 30 cups of coffee would be given out properly, so I didn’t participate in a lot of conversations.

So excited to see students interacting with the station!


Positive feedback from students.

Interesting conversations I overheard

“Are you a red cup person or blue cup person?”

“I’m totally a red.”

“I don’t understand who would pick the red cup.”

“ I didn’t encounter anyone holding a red cup like me. So I didn’t really had new conversations.”

“I’m down to talk to people. I feel like I don’t know anyone outside my program.”

“I have a lot to do today so I think I will pick blue.”

Final thoughts

This mini-cafe is a very meaningful experiment for me, it is refreshing to see students connecting with each other through coffee. I look forward to a day when we could take a break from dating or networking apps, and have organic, genuine conversations in a shared space.

Next time I would definitely be more prepared for the logistical issues. And I would also host it in a space with more room to hang around and talk.

If you want to host your red cup, blue cup event at your school, feel free to mail me at I will send you the promotion materials I used :)

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments

Carina Yu

Written by

Carina Yu

I have too many interests and it shows

Carina’s Laboratory

A collection of Carina’s design experiments