A favorite coffee mug is a lot like the Taco Bell drive thru. It's best not to look inside and just enjoy what comes out.

– June 26, 2014


Many a late night spent in front of looming deadlines convinced me of the worth of a favorite coffee mug. A ceramic security blanket: a touchstone of sorts to provide a respite when the pressure was the greatest. This was not some pristine decorator cup hanging and all prim and proper from a Pinterest inspired cup caddy. No, this vessel was a two-fisted workhorse, A blue collar companion fighting alongside me in the design trenches through the wee morning hours.

It was my wing man.

I've had a few such mugs in my day. One of my favorites was adorned simply with an image of Snoopy doing his happy dance. This particular mug had a habit of disappearing for weeks at a time before mysteriously reappearing in a dish rack beside the sink. I might’ve cried yet when it finally shattered on the floor (on perhaps the 10th time it was dropped…).

Several of my mugs have proudly displayed the Indiana University logo, others have displayed nothing at all. Oddly, I have yet to have a mug with an image of a pink flamingo. My current mug was hand made by a colleague at my former institution. All of these mugs shared a healthy capacity for fluids. I could empty a pot of coffee in two or three pours.

The mugs all share one other trait that might seem a bit disgusting to some: I never washed them.

Maybe it was superstition. The stains and build up overtime represented a history of my design practice. I drank from those mugs while creating work to pitch a new client, when creating work that won awards, and when creating failures that should have cost me much more than they ultimately did. There was a continuum within the ceramic walls of those mugs, and a comfort. I always felt a bit off my game breaking in a new one. Hopefully, that didn't show in my design, but I gotta believe that my work was less forced as the mug became seasoned.

Was it disgusting? Yeah, probably a little, especially when the mug had been sitting half full for a extended weekend or even longer. I dealt with the disgust by simply not looking inside, which may be why I preferred dark mugs over light ones. They seasoned faster…

Which brings me to my original tweet. Another staple of late nights in the studio was a stop at the Taco Bell drive-thru at 2:00 AM. Like the inside of my coffee mug, I didn't want to look too closely through the window at what was going on inside. It was far better to just enjoy what came out…