10,000 Years of Solitude

I told the story of coffee: from its past to its future.

MAY - JUNE 2018


For Design of Data, we were asked to create a narrative of a swerve: that is, a positive change made in response to a growing social problem. I worked with two other Master’s students to document the extinction of coffee (turns out it was 10,000 years in the making!) and the actions that humans are taking to mollify said extinction.


I was in charge of all the visual assets, including the infographics, illustrations, and the web version of our narrative. Eager to put my storytelling and writing chops to the test, I worked with my two project partners to craft a story. We researched the origins and biological markup of coffee, and crafted a plot for our story:

  • Past: Coffee’s origins as a result of inbreeding species
  • Present: The main species that dominate what we know of coffee
  • Present: The current biological threats to coffee
  • Future: Ways to mitigate these threats (hence the swerve)

We aimed to craft the story for everyday consumers of coffee, so we needed to be able to tell the story in layman’s terms. That is, we did not want to rely on overly scientific or technical terminology, and the visuals that I would create would ultimately help enrich the reader’s understanding of our story.

For example, I used traditional media to create illustrations of the different coffee beans in the style of a botanical illustration to establish both a scientific and playful feel. I also used family tree depictions to clearly delineate the biological markup of coffee.

To depict the biological threats to coffee, I created a map made of “coffee beans” in order to visualize just how widespread these threats have become. Using differentiated color schemes, I aimed to depict the different areas where coffee is affected. The maps below were made in Photoshop.

Final Product:

You can read the story here, illustrations and all. A mug of coffee is highly recommended while reading. ☕