Odds & Ends

Mindtribe’s 2016 Mug Competition

The Mug Wall

If you’re a guest or client visiting Mindtribe, you’ll likely be invited into our coffee shop before your next meeting or during a break from interviews.

It’s a cozy, brightly lit corner of the office, a relaxing haven where you can escape from the clutter of your desk, brew a cup of coffee, and work against the soothing sounds of the Financial District being slowly unmade by a perpetual onslaught of jackhammers. 

As soon as you walk through the door of the coffee shop, the first thing you’ll notice is the sacred mug wall. Every Mindtriber pays a visit to the mug wall on their way to the caffeination station. Lining the cubbies of the mug wall is a myriad of mugs of all different shapes, sizes, decorations, and varieties. Some mugs bear the insignia of Mindtribe alma maters, like Stanford, UC Berkeley, and Cal Poly SLO. 


Others are decorated with illustrations of landmarks and tourist attractions from all the exotic destinations that Mindtribers have vacationed, like Taiwan, Peru, and even Florida. 


Many of the coffee receptacles that populate the wall escape categorization, like disembodied cow head, hehehe iguana, and decapitated Mickey Mouse. 



Early one fateful morning, a sleepy-headed Mindtriber walked into the coffee shop. He trudged up to the mug wall and stuck his hand into a cubby, expecting to pull out a jug for his java. What he found was that he had stuck his hand into an empty slot in the mug wall.

Understandably distraught and prepared to succumb to this morning defeat, he was suddenly struck by an idea: 

“Wow! What if we held an annual company-sponsored mug making competition where employees design a mug in their modeling software of choice, and three winners are selected via democratic vote and their mug designs are printed using Shapeways porcelain fabrication services and placed in the prestigious mug wall for all of Mindtribe posterity to enjoy?”

Reinvigorated with energy, Kerry Scharfglass removed his hand from the empty cubby and bolted out of the coffee shop to present his brilliant idea to his fellow employees. 

“What a swell idea!” said Jason, a bright smile stretching across his face. 

“I can’t wait to design a mug in my modeling software of choice!” exclaimed Angela.

“I’m gonna make a mug with chamfers on it!” screamed Kyle.

“Wow, great work Kerry. Let the games begin!” declared Greg. 

And so the first annual Mindtribe mug making competition began. After months of ideating and designing, the renders were in. Here is a montage of the entries:



Michelle’s design is unique spin on the Mindtribe logo, perhaps conveying a message about our company’s multilayered-multidisciplinary engineering approach.

Ashley’s milk carton mug will take you back to the yesterdays of cafeteria food and strawberry milk mustaches.

Jason channels his inner Kyle “The Chamfer’er” Tucker with a mug that balances on a chamfer, and a gorgeous render that looks right at home against Solidworks’ Photoview 360 Kitchen backdrop. 


Kyle Tucker channels his inner flour mill with a mug that contains a water wheel so that immediately converts your coffee pouring into useful work, so you don’t need to wait for the caffeine to kick in.

The outermost face of Ryan’s mug contains a stylish cut out design that separates it from the internal cavity.

Telind’s first design, “Tricorn”, is a pyramid doing a handstand. His second design, “LeanWitIt” is a slick geometric extruded tube that supports itself by leaning on its handle.

Greg’s design is an innovative nesting mug that has an internal portion that flips to form a built-in filter. 


The competition was fierce. The votes were in. The people had spoken.

And they chose Angela, Kerry, and Michael’s designs to be sent to Shapeways. 



Angela’s design is an elegantly mugified version of the classic orizuru (折鶴), the origami folded paper crane. The body of the paper crane forms the cup, and the pointed geometry of the head and tail make it actually quite practical to hold. 


Angela’s design captures the delicate folds and creases of a paper crane, while maintaining a sturdy wall thickness so as not to feel too fragile in the hand. Even the creases that form the curvature of the crane’s beak are well defined in the glazed porcelain.

Angela’s mug was so cost-effective that she was able to print two of her designs within the budget for a single mug, so two colorways adorn the mug wall: one in a subdued celadon green, and the other in a bright paper white. 

For the coffee drinker wanting to add an artistic elegance to their morning ritual, Angela’s paper crane mugs are a wish come true. 



Kerry’s design, titled “The Mainline”, resembles the product of a postmodern love affair between a PVC pipe fitting and a mutant fire hydrant. It’s possible that a candlestick telephone could have slipped in there– there would be no way of knowing.

The body of Kerry’s mug is comprised of a cylinder with large external threads on each end, and a lowercase-R-shaped pipe impaling the central cavity. The internal cavities of these pipes extend partially into the body. The handle is a very industrial-looking T-shaped bar. 


“The Mainline” simultaneously conveys practicality and playfulness: the conventional mug shape with the curious essence of a hamster tube. When you’re sipping coffee from “The Mainline”, you may find yourself reminiscing on simpler times on the playground, thinking about those telephone tubes that run along the jungle gym that you shout secret messages into. 

Kerry’s original design underwent some modifications through the Shapeway’s porcelain manufacturing process. 

But to understand what changed about Kerry’s design, you have to understand how Shapeways makes their porcelain mugs. 


This diagram illustrates how Shapeways creates their porcelain mugs, via Shapeways.

This diagram illustrates how Shapeways creates their porcelain mugs, via Shapeways.

Contrary to what one may initially believe when they think of “3-D printed porcelain mugs”, the porcelain itself is not actually 3-D printed. In fact, Shapeways creates their porcelain mugs by 3-D printing software generated molds. Porcelain is poured into the mold and left to dry. The mold is then broken apart to reveal the raw porcelain positive, which is then glazed and fired in a kiln.

Kerry’s original design had the tubes going all the way through the body of the mug, so you could drop a marble into one side and it would come out the other. However, according to Shapeways’ design for manufacturing feedback, it was too difficult for them to remove the part of the mold that would create the cavity of the lowercase-R shaped through hole. 

Alas, Kerry had to fill in most of the tubes of his design, but the holes on either side of the filled-in tube are deep enough so that you can poke in your finger or hide a secret message for a coffee-addicted friend (“You have a problem.”)  And that’s neat. 



 The third competition entry that was sent to Shapeways was actually composed of two mugs. The first is a crude model of the famous LEGO mug piece, scaled to a size that is impractical for any meaningful beverage consumption other than mouthwash. 


The second part is a tribute to Chasen Peters in the form of a LEGO-fied caricature of the famous Electrical Engineer and former Mindtriber. The carefully sculpted geometry of Chasen’s LEGO head features an uncannily realistic beard and his characteristic smile. LEGO Chasen sports his signature Mindtribe Caltrain T-Shirt (designed by none other than Kerry Scharfglass himself). 


Perhaps the most striking resemblance of all is that LEGO Chasen happily holds the smaller LEGO porcelain mug, reflecting real-life Chasen’s fuel of choice (The handle of the LEGO mug was carefully tapered to ensure a proper fit with his LEGO hands). The entire volume of Chasen’s body is cored out to hold liquid. The LEGO stud on the top of the head is actually a tube that connects to the outer enclosed volume, so that you too can finally impale Chasen’s head with a straw and drink your favorite beverage from his insides. 


However, if you visit the mug wall looking for the LEGO Chasen mug, you won’t find it. That’s because it was given to Chasen as his farewell present. Now LEGO Chasen accompanies real-life Chasen on beverage-related adventures in sunny San Diego. 


And so ends the tale of the Mindtribe Mug Competition of 2016. What fresh new mug ideas and contestants will await 2017’s competition? The prestige of the mug wall awaits!