The betacup: A story in collaborative design

Session Title

The betacup: A story in collaborative design


Brynn Evans, Toby Daniels

Session Type: Presentation

The problem with disposable paper cups is that they aren’t recyclable. 58 billion paper cups are thrown away every year — a large portion of them from coffee shops. Reusable travel mugs are one alternative, but they are not convenient and thus have not been widely adopted by consumers.

Is it possible to design a more convenient solution that also reduces the solid waste of paper cups?

I’ve been working on this problem with a distributed team of visionary designers, sustainability experts, and social media strategists. Our goal is not to produce yet-another-reusable-mug with a revolutionary form factor; but to cultivate a community that helps us produce solutions that create natural incentives and work within consumers’ existing behaviors. In other words, we’re working towards a solution that fits within the ecosystem and practice of coffee drinking.

We want to tell the story of “the betacup” project. Our story is one of collaborative design and community activism. We have taken a unique approach to understanding this problem, both in our mindset about the importance of coffee culture and by encouraging community contributions in the ideation and prototyping of a solution.

Our story would not be complete if we don’t share it with you and include you in our growing community. We welcome your feedback, thoughts, and advice.


Brynn Evans: Brynn has a deep interest and passion for the social use and application of technology. She has researched how people think, act, and behave for 10 years, from psychological and anthropological perspectives. Most recently, her work has focused on the role of social interactions during search (so-called “social search”), and how to design online systems that support collaborative question-answering. In her current work, she brings user-centered design principles and tactics to the burgeoning world of social technologies.

Toby Daniels (co-presenter): Toby is an entrepreneur with 10 years experience of running businesses in digital media. He’s the founder of Social Media Week, an annual conference and cofounder of BrandExposure, which connects senior brand marketers with social media thought leaders. In July 2009 Toby also helped to launched ThinkSocial, which advances public interest initiatives through social media. Before moving to the US in 2006, Toby was the Managing Director of Online Creative Communications, a London based digital agency which he managed for 7 years. (Twitter: tobyd)