Workplace & Coffee

How coffee-loving workplace professionals moved beyond the experience of mindlessly drinking coffee to inventing meaningful ways to convene over it.

Brightening up the La Marzocco temporary café

In 2018, La Marzocco, an Italian company specializing in high-end espresso coffee machines and equipment, released the Linea Mini in the Italian market, a kitchen-version of La Marzocco Linea Classic. Redesigned for individual consumers, it allows them to brew and drink an excellent espresso like the bar. 

To celebrate the launch, La Marzocco opened a temporary café in Milan’s artsy Brera district in April. A coincidence? Probably not. April in Milan means only one thing: Salone del Mobile, the famous furniture fair. It’s when the whole city abounds with events, presentations, exhibitions, and special projects about design, furniture, and innovations in living solutions. 

With just a bar counter near the entrance, some tables, and a few bespoke Linea Mini on display, the space was yearning for people, chatter, and the most delicious, can’t-get-enough aroma of coffee. 

That’s when Giada Biondi, La Marzocco’s global communications manager, called me to rack our brains. Giada and I had first connected a few years earlier when I had presented her company as a case study to my students at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and the master’s program in food design at Scuola Politecnica di Design in Milan.

So, not only did I know the company inside out, but I was also fond of their almost century-old story, mission, values, and community initiatives for baristas and coffee lovers. Later, Giada admitted that she immediately thought about me when the plan for the café started to shape. 

Giada and I also share a mutual respect for the finest materials and ingredients. This passion, along with a common interest in opening up the conversation about coffee culture beyond its close community of coffee aficionados, left me no choice but to say, “sì!”

Concept Ideation & Development

Creative Direction

Curation

Production

Marketing, Communications & PR

Copywriting

Speaking & Moderation

Illustration

Graphic Design

The bar counter at La Marzocco Temporary Cafè.The bar counter at La Marzocco Temporary Cafè.
Exhibition of coffee machines by La Marzocco.Exhibition of coffee machines by La Marzocco. Credits Inge de Boer.

Opening up the conversation about coffee to workplace professionals

Location and timing were our strengths but also our weaknesses. First, the LM café was located in the heart of Milan’s Brera district, known for its elegant fashion boutiques, galleries, and antique stores. Yet, it was tucked away along a secondary street out of sight of many passersby.

Man standing and watching his smartphone in front of La Marzocco Temporary CafèOutside of La Marzocco Temporary Cafè. Credits Inge de Boer.

Second, Salone del Mobile draws in hundreds of thousands of visitors. Most attendees have a full plate packed with events, openings, and exhibitions around the city. With so many exhibitors competing for attention, getting in the spotlight is a challenge. That is unless you have a large enough budget to hire a PR agency.

Alas, we also weren’t looking for just any design lover. Instead, we sought a unique breed of individuals who revere coffee not just as a product, but as a lifestyle.

With the Linea Mini, you can brew excellent coffee at home. It’s also a practical, stylish companion for coffee breaks in offices. Were employee experience and office managers aware of this product and its benefits? Probably not. The LM team and I figured out an opportunity to engage this audience of office workers.

In short, we knew we had to reach the right people and entice them enough to swing by the café instead of going to one of the gazillion other events taking place simultaneously. Of course, not an easy task! But with our goals well-plated on the table, my team and I got to work.

Barista doing latte art on a Linea MiniLinea Mini by La Marzocco.

Workplace & Coffee

In designing the café experience, we played to our strengths. Was the café tucked away? Great! We’d provide an intentionally calm and quiet space for respite amongst the bustle of Salone. We positioned the café as a place to learn and meet like minded individuals united by a passion for coffee and genuine care for people.

Under the name “Workplace & Coffee,” we transformed the three-room, tucked-away pop-up café into a communal coffee and event space focused on the impact of coffee on workplace culture and well-being.

The community space getting buzzing. Credits Inge de Boer.

Those who were looking to learn and engage found the opportunity to think about their experience with coffee and food in the workplace through a one-on-one audit called the “Workplace Food Check” (which I trialed out for the occasion) and a panel conversation entitled Brewing Strong Work Culture.”

Well-dressed men and women talking inside the La Marzocco Temporary CafèGuests at the La Marzocco Temporary Cafè. Credits Veronica Fossa.

Mapping food interactions in the workplace

The Workplace Food Check, a tool I designed to map food interactions in the workplace, asked the following questions: What rituals do you have around food at work? What about your colleagues? Do you eat by yourself or do you eat together with others? Where do you eat at work?

These seemingly simple questions forced our global audience of café patrons to analyze their work situations and experiences. If they were in charge of employee experience, their answers also reflected their workplace culture. The most common feedback I heard was, “Wow. I never thought about that.”

The Italian version of the Workplace Food Check.

Inventing meaningful ways to convene over coffee

Tapping into LM’s almost century-long knowledge about coffee, I curated and hosted a panel conversation and tasting session called Brewing Strong Work Culture, which took place in the back room of the café. 

LM’s Coffee Educator Alexander Gable joined me to give a quick overview of specialty coffee and showed us how to brew the perfect espresso with the Linea Mini. I also shared some tips and suggestions to improve the experience of drinking coffee at work by inventing creative, meaningful ways to convene over coffee.

Storytelling through design

Since the café didn’t have a clear brand identity, we had to make Workplace & Coffee recognizable. Identifying an opportunity to weave together the story through design, I commissioned talented Danish artist Clara Ernst to illustrate the essence of Workplace & Coffee. At home or in the office, coffee brings us together. 

Using the illustration as the central art piece, Clara also designed a poster for Workplace & Coffee. We printed her design on FSC-certified, GMO-free FAVINI paper made of residues of organic products. The posters illuminated the windows of the café, managing to get a few smiles out of passersby.

Illustrated poster showing men and women making and drinking coffeeThe poster with the playful illustration by Clara Ernst representing a happy crowd of people making and drinking coffee and some cheerful jumping cups of coffee.

When coffee impacts our personal life, relationships, and quality of life

Workplace & Coffee encourages our guests to move beyond the experience of mindlessly drinking coffee and stop to think about how we co-create culture every day, one cup at a time. From the villages of Italy to the cafes of Turkey, coffee is a central part of many global cultures.

Coffee forges social connections by bringing people together and offering a break from our tasks to chat about something else other than work. And yet, we often take it for granted.

Workplace & Coffee intended to bring awareness to the role of coffee in both our personal and work lives. With our conversations and demonstrations, we discovered that the ritual of brewing a hot beverage (be it coffee or tea) is something that few people could live without.

Through their maps of food interactions and hand-brewed cups of espresso that they made with us (some of them for the first time), our guests experienced the true essence of coffee first-hand and developed newly formed friendships. They also left with a newfound understanding that coffee is more than the beloved liquid that picks us up in the morning. Instead, the ritual of making coffee brings people together and profoundly affects our relationships and quality of life.

We knew that working with Veronica would enrich our initiatives and elevate our brand experience. Workplace & Coffee added a refreshing facet to the experience of drinking coffee, encouraging our community not only to pay attention to the role of coffee in our workday but also about our values as individuals, teams, and businesses.

Giada Biondi La Marzocco
Giada BiondiOrganizational Culture and Communications Manager, La Marzocco, Italy

Project Details

Team:

  • Veronica Fossa – Concept ideation and development, Creative direction, Speaking & Moderation, Marketing, Communications & PR
  • Stefano Giacomin – Marketing, Communications, PR, Social media, Production
  • Clara Ernst – Event Identity, Illustrations, and Graphic Design

Press Features

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