Our Design Director’s 5 Favorite Museums

Blue Bottle Director of Design & Innovation Elaine Fong


As keeper of the Blue Bottle visual aesthetic, Elaine Fong has written the rules on our minimalist yet warm style. Her vision shapes every aspect of our company, from how and where we use our Blue Bottle logo to how we lay out our in-cafe signs. Here she shares 5 favorite museums and the unique elements she loves about them, from a room fragrance to an artist’s self-portrait that made her cry. 

1. D Museum  | Seoul

I've only been to this museum once, but I continue to follow them online because my first experience was so powerful. The D works hard at creating a multi-sensory experience for its guests, solidifying itself as a player in the modern art world. During our visit, my husband bought a room fragrance from their well-appointed gift shop, which we only bring out for special occasions. 

2. 21_21 Design Sight | Tokyo

This Tokyo museum was created by two of Japan's most creative forces, Tadao Ando and Issey Miyake. Every time I visit the city, I love visiting it for its approach to curation, storytelling, and architecture. I always purchase a souvenir from the exhibitions I see—one of them is a light blue porcelain bowl from their 2012 "Tema Hima" show. James Freeman uses it to drink coffee in a video I art-directed for our Perfectly Ground Coffee. Ed. note: see minute 2:08.

3. Part 2 Gallery | Oakland

Not a museum, but still one of my favorite places for fresh curation and inspiration. Just down the street from our headquarters in downtown Oakland, Part 2 is a local gallery that features emerging artists just before they become really popular. The gallery also celebrates local Oakland muralists, whose works have created a colorful canvas across several Oakland buildings. I've been fortunate to collect 1 piece so far from this gallery to hang in my house. 

4. DeYoung Museum | San Francisco

I love museums that not only curate interesting exhibitions, but are also fascinating buildings in their own right. Herzog and De Meuron's DeYoung Museum is my favorite in San Francisco. They host really well-focused retrospectives, and every time we go, we get to admire the interior and exterior details of the architecture. Their use of materials, lighting, space, and environment together form a piece all its own. 

5. The Art Institute of Chicago 

I lived in Chicago for 10 years before moving to Oakland, and the city definitely shaped my experiences in my design career. I love Art Institute Chicago for its massive collections and body of work. The only time a painting moved me to literal tears was there—Van Gogh's self portrait. 

DesignBlue Bottle Staff