Why Perspective Matters
notNeutral: A Design Company with a Bold Vision
It’s not difficult these days to engage in a conversation about artificial intelligence (AI). Whether it’s happening online or IRL, people are noticeably excited about AI’s prospects. While also being worried about the jobs that will be eliminated as a result of automation.
One question that I find intriguing: If you can train a machine to complete a task, can you also train it to have a perspective? A perspective that it can claim as its own?
The question is relevant in the context of our profile on notNeutral. A Los Angeles design firm that produces some of the most innovative and user-centric coffeeware I’ve encountered anywhere.
The company was founded in 2001 by the multidisciplinary design firm RIOS. A firm that has its roots in architecture.
The name ‘notNeutral’ derives from the firm’s core belief that good design is about having a perspective. A point of view. And that objects should be imbued with meaning and purpose.
So what does it mean to have a perspective? No perspective is necessarily right or wrong. It’s subjective, and that’s the point. It’s not the object we relate to. It’s the perspective from which that object was born. And that’s the ultimate difference.
Latte and Espresso Cups from the Pico Collection
Although the company was founded in 2001 with stints in tableware and home furniture, it wasn’t until 2010 when the team decided to shift its focus to the specialty coffee world. After winning the Best New Product award at the Specialty Coffee Expo that same year for the Lino Cup. Known for its iconic handle that comes flush with the rim of the cup for maximal comfort and control.
Despite the pivot and subsequent success, it’s worth noting how the company perceives itself.
Explains Hannah Block, the company’s Brand Manager: “We’re a design firm first. Our roots are strongly in multidisciplinary design. We are that before we’re a coffee company.”
It’s an important distinction that informs how the company operates. Namely in starting each design process by asking ‘Why not?’ rather than ‘How can we possibly do this?’
A case in point: For its Vero line of cups for espresso drinks, the firm did not look to coffeeware for precedence. Instead, it chose a specific material (glass) to explore and reveal ways in which it could catch light.
This isn’t to ignore specific problems the firm is looking to solve – in fact, each product goes through multiple rounds of prototyping and user testing. But to elevate the experience in each product. Which is a conscious decision rooted in a philosophical point of view.
The resulting product speaks for itself.
Vero Cappuccino Glass in Emerald
I asked the team whether the firm’s roots in Los Angeles may have some significance in the way it operates and approaches design.
“What we really love about LA is that people can be whoever they want to be here. There’s no right or wrong. It inspires innovation and originality. LA’s creative roots run so deep, and I think the city inspires joyful design,” responds Hannah.
The company’s latest collection Pico, which consists of ceramic coffee cups, saucers and spoons designed for cafés, was inspired by California’s Arts and Crafts Movement. A movement that was known for its handmade craft in pottery and furniture, and that stood in stark contrast against the Industrial Revolution.
The team admits it’s a departure from what coffee shops and other customers may be used to. To get people to notice how a cup actually feels in their hand.
Indeed, it’s a bold move. Especially at a time when the industry has its sights on products that emphasize automation. We know what we stand to gain – efficiency, productivity, cost savings. But is there a tradeoff?
The answer likely depends on what it is that you value. And while the team recognizes the importance of studying trends in the industry and the clear value-add of automation, it continues to look to its own heritage and identity as a design firm to differentiate itself.
There’s a clear line in the sand. As Hannah notes, “We’re still about the old-school coffee experience.”
Pico Cappuccino Cups in Natural
Today we’re proud to partner with notNeutral to give away a Lino + Gino Deluxe Pour-Over Brewing Kit to one lucky subscriber. The kit includes the following:
Two Lino Coffee Mugs in the color of your choice
A Gino Server made of hand-blown and double-walled glass
A Gino Dripper that goes over the Server (or ever a Mug for a single cup brew)
A Bag of 90 Paper Filters
To participate in the drawing, enter your name and email in this Google Form through Sunday, June 4. The winner will be notified on Monday.
Until then, please be sure to give us a follow on IG!
NEW COFFEE: SUPERLOST
Our second coffee from Superlost has officially arrived!
This Brooklyn-based roaster is one of our favorites. They’re known for working with artists to create unique custom illustrations for their bags. And they also happened to partake in our very first DROP promotion earlier this year.
We’re thrilled to have them back with Supernatural. A natural process coffee tailored to devotees of the fermented cup. And those fruity flavors that flow straight into your veins.
Notes of Brown Sugar, Nectarines, and Pecan Twirl will dance all over your taste buds. While you keep your head in the clouds.
A trippy experience.
Today, we’re pleased to offer this special coffee on our marketplace at an exclusive 20% discount. With a limited number of bags available.
Superlost roasts weekly and ships same day.
Shipping: FREE Shipping
Kossa Geshe by Unity Coffee
Of Land & Women Blend by Kula Coffee
Nyamasheke by Kula Coffee
Kayonza by Kula Coffee
Tolima, Colombia Medium Roast by Others Coffee
Ambition Blend by No Sleep Roastery
Ethiopia Belayneh Bariso by Elm Coffee Roasters (free shipping)
Arches - Colombia Natural by Park Pass Coffee
La Favorita by Good Citizen Coffee Co.
Rocky Mountain Blend by Park Pass Coffee
Reserve & Exotic Coffee Cupping (tickets $30)
Corvus Coffee Roasters, 5846 South Wadsworth Blvd, Suite 3500, Littleton, CO
Saturday, June 3 (10am)
Weekly Public Cupping (free)
Boxx Coffee Roasters Co., 950 East 3rd Street
Thursday, June 1 (3 - 4pm)
Panther Coffee, 5934 NW 2nd Avenue
Friday, June 9 (sign in at 5pm, first pour at 6pm)
The Art Room, 1285 4th Street NE
Saturday, June 3 (12 - 3pm)
Do you have an upcoming coffee event in any of these cities? If you do, reply back to this email and let me know! We're aiming to connect our readers to events happening in cities across the country. Tastings, latte art throwdowns, coffee shop openings. And other events that promote specialty coffee and provide opportunities for learning.
Would love to help all of you connect with each other through future newsletters. So reach out and let me know what you're working on!
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