David Salinas creates beautiful products that allow us to really express our love for coffee. Together with Brett Cannon he built the brand Department of Brewology, based in Austin, Texas. Their cool T-shirts, awesome caps and fun pins connect Specialty Coffee with sleek design.
In this interview, David talks about his journey from coffee to design, and what brings these two worlds together.
How did you get into the Specialty Coffee world?
Years before I was a graphic designer, my first love was always coffee. It's so much more than a beverage in a cup. It's an evocative experience. I became a barista because I loved the culture of coffee; it sucked me in, I didn't stand a chance. I eventually managed a couple of shops in my time behind the counter. In retrospect, I made countless mistakes and fortunately for me I had a gracious boss who saw something in me. I often look back and cringe and hope to forget certain chapters in my journey, but who am I to wish away the past. Both the good and the bad brought me to this point and I am grateful for both.
How do Specialty Coffee and design fit together?
One of the shops I managed doubled as punk rock venue. Just for fun, I ended up designing logos for many of the bands that would come through town. Eventually, I fell in love with design. I transitioned from coffee to design as my clientele grew larger and larger. I spent the next 10 years working for a number of bands and eventually worked mostly in brand development - but all the while coffee never left my veins.
A few times over the years I would take barista shifts here and there but it simply wasn't sustainable. I was frustrated in this period. I loved design and I loved coffee. The two seemed like two warring giants in my life. The formation of the Department of Brewology meant the conciliatory truce between the two giants feuding to claim dominance in my life. Fortunately for me, COUNTLESS people saw, valued, and supported my work. I wish I could adequately convey how this impacted me.
Are there specific characteristics of the coffee industry that should be taken into account when it comes to designing coffee products?
Absolutely, the end result... the person. Automation is a wonderful thing for business but in our efforts to make coffee more efficient, the human element is quickly shrinking. People love convenience and automation but we also love to feel CONNECTED to the process.
From the design to the final product, what’s most important to you?
The product line we've created was designed to curate a unique user experience. We hope that's evident when one comes in contact with our items.
Where are the products made?
We make every effort to produce all we can locally here in Austin, TX.
Could you tell us the story behind the project “We filter coffee not people”?
As many know upon release of the controversial travel ban I initiated the FILTER COFFEE NOT PEOPLE campaign. I don’t ever recall such an urge to respond to something so fundamentally wrong. This travel ban drives at the heart of fundamental human needs: The need to belong. To say to a large population of the world “you don’t belong,” is incredibly de-humanizing and frankly, it was tragic to witness. I couldn’t just stand idly by, so began the FILTER COFFEE NOT PEOPLE campaign. I designed a shirt with the phrase and donated a portion of the proceeds to Refugee Services of Texas. Since then the campaign has received widespread global support from the coffee industry. While coffee and politics don’t usually mix well together, coffee and hospitality do. People open coffee shops based not the dream that the stranger will be welcomed in; this travel ban flies in the face of what makes up Specialty Coffee. I’ve been incredibly encouraged to see countless coffee shops get behind the message of inclusivity; and it’s no wonder, coffee breaks down walls and brings people together. Coffee is universal and knows no border, no creed, no race, only PEOPLE.
When it comes to hand brew, what’s your favourite method? Which pin from Barista Merit Series would you wear?
That's easy, the Chemex. It was the first brewing device that challenged me to forget everything I thought I knew about coffee. Its design and simplicity are unequivocally beautiful. I'd proudly wear that Barista Merit Badge.
Which coffee do you like to drink when you are creating new products?
As an American coffee lover I'm always delighted to have a European roasted coffee on my brew bar. Thanks to my KaffeBox subscription that happens at least once a month. ;)