Basic Income Cafe uses coffee as a metaphor for the flow of money

“Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand."

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Graduate student Martina Huynh wants to change the way we look at working for an income. Her project, called Basic Income Cafe is an installation, explores basic income scenarios. It uses coffee as a metaphor for the flow of money.

Basic income is something that Huynh believes everybody should have the right to and this is already a reality in places like Finland and Switzerland.

Inside the cafe, there were two coffee “capital” stations. One to represent basic income in Switzerland and one for Finland. When a person entered the cafe their first cup of coffee is free.

But if a person wanted another cup, Huynh says they’ll have to work for it. “You have to physically grind coffee beans and translate your manual labour into valuable gold because outcome is your salary,” she explains.

The experiment looked at giving people just enough money to find a job but not to survive.

She sees these two stations as representing just how different each person's interpretation and expectation of basic income is.

“Visitors are provoked to experience the underlying economic models first hand and while interacting with other participants, are able to test social situations that are potential outcomes for the basic income scenarios,” says Huynh.

She summarises her project with the question of: “Do you prefer to first work in order to earn a cup of coffee or do you prefer to first have a cup of coffee that enables work?”

She hopes to expand the project by including more countries.

Huynh presented this project during the second antenna conference at Dutch Design Week, which saw a collaboration between Design Indaba and the Dutch Design Foundation. She spoke alongside 19 other young designers.

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