“We filter coffee not people”

Back to Overview Published: 31/07/18 Duration: 4 min read


David Salinas is creating beautiful products, which express our love for coffee. He built the brand Department of Brewology together with Brett Cannon in Austin, Texas. Their cool T-shirts, awesome caps and fun pins connect Specialty Coffee with design.

In this interview, David talks about his journey from coffee to design, and what brings these two worlds together.

THE BARN: How did you get to the Specialty Coffee world?
David Salinas: 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, it 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 I 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.

THE BARN: How do Specialty Coffee and design match?
David Salinas: One of the shops I managed doubled as punk rock venue; for fun, I ended up designing logos for many of the bands that would come thru town. Eventually, I fell in love with design. I transitioned from Coffee to the 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. 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.

THE BARN: Are there specific characteristics of the coffee industry that should be taken into account when it comes to designing coffee products?
David Salinas: 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.

THE BARN: From the design to the final product, what’s important to you? Where are the products made?
David Salinas: The product line we've created was designed to curate a unique user experience. We hope to that's evident when one comes in contact with our items. We make every effort to produce all we can locally here in Austin, TX.

THE BARN: Could you tell us the story behind the project “We filter coffee not people”?
David Salinas: 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.

THE BARN: When it comes to hand brew, what’s your favourite method? Which pin from Barista Merit Series would you wear?
David Salinas: That's easy, the Chemex. It was the first brewing devices 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.

THE BARN: Which coffee do you like to drink when you are creating new products?
David Salinas: 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. ;)