Untuitive Cups

Sparking an inquiry about the way we
move and how we use our bodies.

Instructed by
Audrey Desjardins
Jeremy Viny

Our bodies use tools everyday. We often don’t think about this, because certain tools— like cups—have become so instinctive. My teammates and I saw an opportunity: to create fun, unintuitive cups, and watch as people experiment and discover new body movements while they enjoy a warm cup of coffee. 


User Research, User Testing
Adobe Creative Cloud
CAD 3D Printing



Betty Lo, Ryan Sorensson,
Katrina Filer, Wilson Reavely
Design Methods
Winter 2019, 10 weeks



How might design attend to the body?

Our team was given the broad challenge of designing a way for people to better attend to their bodies. For a while, we debated back and forth about which scope to narrow in on before taking a step back. We had been too fixated on visualizing the final solution, and this constricted our ability to discover new design opportunities.


We made designs are meant to start a dialogue — a deep and considerable inquiry about our bodies.
Users discover the best way to use these cups considering their own bodies. We redesigned this experience around this  everyday object, exploring the relationship between tools and our bodies to spark an inquiry about how we move. In each design, we considered the various motions to use the cup. These cups can create a respectful environment for discourse while producing a wide variety of reactions.

Before we decided on our research topic, we had debated back and forth about which scope to narrow in on before taking a step back. We had been too fixated on visualizing the final solution, and this constricted our ability to discover new design opportunities. After escaping this tunnel vision mentality, we settled on researching routines—specifically, we looked at the ways and reasons people take care of their bodies. We believed this topic was broad enough to supply unforeseen insights, but narrow enough to follow the design process realistically.

1/5 - Research

We used three main research methods. First, we sent out a digital survey, asking questions about how college-age people take care of their bodies, and why these routines were a part of their schedule. The 50 responses we collected were mostly brief, but revealed to us a wider definition of what our participants considered a part of their routine self-care. Next, we conducted participant observation and directed storytelling with four college students to get an in-depth look into their routines. As they walked us through their daily rituals at home, we encouraged them to elaborate on key artifacts.

Pulling insights

We found that participants were generally happy with their routines, but admitted that they would like to incorporate more self-care rituals— namely those associated with fitness and mindfulness.
1. Routines are made up of rituals.
These rituals could be a morning cup of coffee, an afternoon workout, religious meditations, etc. All people have rituals, but not necessarily fixed routines. Participants noted that completing rituals for stress relief and self-care was important to their day.
2. When people experience unexpected complications in their day
—such as waking up late, social events, or catching a cold— their rituals are subtracted or rearranged in their routine. This can lower people’s moods, but when they find ways to adapt their ritual, they can achieve satisfaction similar to the original ritual.
3. In general, people operate within predictable environments.
These environmental factors—such as time constraints, people around them, or seasons—cause people to structure their routine around rituals they need or value.
We experienced difficulty in getting participants to elaborate on why they have the routine they do—everyone’s routine is very obvious to them, but they don’t immediately realize how much it varies between individuals. Life changes every day, especially in college, which is why we adopted the use of the word “rituals” to supplement.
At this point in the process we wrote the following statement to give us direction:

How might we bring focus to the connection between self-care rituals and the body?

Originally, we thought that addressing the disturbances people experienced in their routines would be our best design opportunity. However, we knew that this approach may be overbearing, as our participants already had their own personalized methods of addressing disturbances. Our final choice was design to encourage critical thinking about the ways that an individual’s body responds to their self-care; we saw it as the more empathetic path.




— should not judge what is a
good or bad routine or ritual.


— should not be compromised
by disruptions.


— should be able to be used

2/5 - Ideation

With a clear direction in mind, we began sketching down our ideas. Trying our best to avoid tunnel vision, we kept this process as light and humorous as possible. We brainstormed installations, services, household items, apps, and even VR experiences which could supplement the user’s routine with attentivity to self-care.

3/5 - Participatory Design

We gathered together with three participants to brainstorm forms for our unintuitive artifacts. We have always had trouble explaining our project, especially to those who expect it to solve a specific problem.
While this workshop didn’t give many insights into what our design should look like, it was encouraging to see our participants have fun modifying the objects in progressively stranger ways.
Eventually, we lost the idea of self-care, and had further focused our means of bringing attention to the connection between rituals and the body. Therefore, after much deliberation, we settled on our final statement: How might we redesign experiences with everyday objects to explore the relationship between tools and our bodies?
We developed our own “How Might We” statement that fit the nature of our project:

How might we redesign experiences with everyday objects to explore the relationship between tools and our bodies?

3/5 - Storyboard

For our storyboard, we settled on cups as our everyday artifact. Cups are already highly intuitive, so we don’t really think about the movements required when we use them. This was the perfect vessel for a redesign. Additionally, we could contextualize them in a coffee shop environment.

4/5 - Prototyping + User Feedback

We began sketching the forms of these cups; we wanted multiple for our final product. These designs were far from perfect, but they were enough to give our testers a working concept of the form.
After hearing our explanation and reading our storyboard, our participants expressed initial hesitations, thinking that these cups would be a hindrance to their regular coffee routine. However, once we noted that these cups were not meant to replace normal ones, but would act as a fun opportunity to explore movement, they opened up to this concept. We discovered that our users would feel more comfortable trying these cups with friends, which we would encourage in our installation.
Additionally, we asked if it would be better to make our intended uses for the cups obvious (such as coloring the tip of a handle so they would know to pinch it). Our participants concluded that part of their enjoyment was due to the ambiguity of the cups, which led them to be more creative. We agreed that specifying a proper way to hold or move the cup would be detrimental to the experience, and might contradict our principle of respect.

5/5 - Final Prototype

ladle cup

— designed with a slanted body and a long handle. Users have enjoyed the little arm workout opportunity it provides as they hold the handle behind their head
to drink.

TWist cup

— named for the wrist rotation movement required to drink from the straight side of the cup. Adding this unique bit of motion gets our users to compare with their normal cup experience and think about how their bodies instinctively interact with tools.

brick cup

— our most simple design, though is remains quirky enough to add excitement to the user’s coffee routine. In another iteration, we would weight it so it would be necessary to pick up with both hands.