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This designer turns paper coffee cups into works of art

Even better, all of the proceeds go to a children’s charity. 


Sarah Weber


At what point does a doodle become art? In the case of Miguel Cardona, the answer is almost immediately.

The San Francisco based designer and illustrator has gained a reputation for creating some really incredible sketches on throw-away paper coffee cups. He was inspired last year when a barista at local cafe tied a napkin to his cup in a way that looked to Cardona like a scarf. He sketched around the napkin to create a face, and did the same the next day, and the next.

Cardona’s sketches became more detailed and, as they gained popularity, he decided to put them to good use, selling them to benefit San Francisco charity Project Night Night. The organization provides bedtime care packages to homeless children in the Bay Area, each containing a toy, a blanket and a book. We got in touch with Cardona to talk about his hobby and the good that comes from it.

Where do you get your inspiration for the cups? Do you take requests?

I keep an inspiration folder, of all kinds of random things, I take photos when I’m walking out and about, but really I enjoy drawing boxy robots, reticulated arms, monster faces, squids, and skulls. I’m like a little kid. I take requests a lot of the time, sometimes people will challenge me to draw something, I always enjoy a challenge.

I understand these drawings take 20 minutes to three hours. Where do you find the time? How many cups do you make per week?

The weeks where I am procrastinating a lot I can do like five, but lately I have been way too busy. I favor weekend mornings in my favorite cafe. I’m friends with a bunch of the regulars and staff, we all just sit around chatting, I’ll draw on cups or in my sketchbook.

Have you thought about going into business?

To be honest, I don’t see much viability in cup art as a business. I would rather transfer the hobby to doing a children’s book or illustrate someone else’s publication.

How did you choose Project Night Night?

I decided to start selling the cups for a charity one day at the coffee shop because I had too many on display, and people were asking if they could buy them. Because it is a disposable cup, people assume it’s not worth very much, even though I put some time into the work. I did some research on Bay Area charities, and Project Night Night seemed like something I could really get behind. The homeless problem in the Bay Area is pretty bad, and I wanted to be able to make a quantifiable difference. 1 cup sold = 1 care package for a child in need.

Can people on the Internet buy your cups?

I have started up a site in response to the demand to make them available online: Within 48 hours, I have sold all but three cups I have posted. Proceeds are still going to Project Night Night. I am also taking limited monthly requests on the site as well.

All photos by Miguel Cardona

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