Kopie Koffie – Designing for Social Impact

  • Social Spaces

A social print and copy shop in the Buitenhof district in Delft: Kopie Koffie (Copy Coffee). Professional printing services, good coffee, and a social function for the neighbourhood. Layout, décor and ambiance had to contribute to the social enterprise. The operations, house-style and spatial interventions were treated as inter-connected elements: a design process for social impact.

The former salon on Chopinlaan street is one of the few storefronts in a neighborhood comprised mostly of flats. Long before the opening of the new space, residents know how to find this place. They walk in to share experiences, out of curiosity or in search of help with their mobile phone. Founder Harmen van der Laan quit his job as drinking water technologist in favour of meaningful work for his community. “We want to become the Tony Chocolonely of print work,” says van der Laan. The goal is to create jobs for neighbours who are distanced from the labour market and, most importantly, to offer a place where people can be seen. Starting up it seems like a positive development, but will it be possible to run a financially healthy business here? And how do you optimise the social impact of it?


Scenes from the Copy Corner

Harmen van der Laan discribes his entreprise as a warm-hearted woman, baking a cake, inspired by the film The Shack. There’s also the association with the children’s TV program Taarten van Abel (Abel’s Cakes); the personal and trusted atmosphere, paired with a concrete goal: a cake that must be baked. There are no painful silences here – people are hard at work – and there is no expectation that every problem will be solved, but there is space to listen and be heard.


In the book ‘Scènes in de copy corner’ Joke van der Zwaard thoughtfully describes the informal meetings that take place in a print shop in Rotterdam. People come to the store for a variety of reasons; students are often there for an hour at a time, copying a text and chat about their private lives in the meantime, someone makes a copy of an important document for an significant moment in their life or to print off something created thoughtfully and with love. It is a combination of the fact that people stay in the store for some time but there are also guests who are helped by the owners. The shop is a workspace for the owner and the visitor. Waiting, looking at and listening to what happens around you is part of that. This leads to a special atmosphere where people from different backgrounds come into contact in a comfortable and relaxed setting. Here, you aren’t anonymous, and you can even feel a temporary sense of ownership over the space. The location of the copy machines along the façade helps create connection with the street and makes the daily goings-on inside the shop visible from outside.

Kopie Koffe’s ambition is to increase the social impact of the print shop by combining it with a coffee bar. The neighbourhood association also wants to use the building as a home base. This way, people with different backgrounds have their own reasons to spend time in the store and to become familiar with one another.


Designing for impact

Approachability is essential for an accessible design. The layout makes use of the structure of the building, with its two entries and two roof typologies. There are two yellow counters – for printing and for the café, that bring the concept Copy Coffee to life. The production space for printing is separate from the kitchen. At the same time, the tables and copy machines share space in the public portion of the building. Papers can be spread over the tables, flex-workers make a quick copy before a meeting with a client and people using the printers order a coffee while waiting for their prints.


Not a community centre, but not retail either

The interior gets a fresh look, through simple means. All the walls and ceilings are painted white, and the frosted stickers are removed from the windows. A PVC floor with a wood pattern completes the picture. It’s clear to see in the finished space that the effort has come from the owners themselves. This makes for a personal and informal space. At the same time, the printers and coffee machines are of the highest quality.  Bike couriers deliver professional prints to companies, while neighbours can enjoy lunch for €2,50 together at the large table in a communal workspace. There are two repurposed pews from a church and cups stand ready for drinks that have been prepaid by generous clients.

Design and entrepreneurship hand in hand

There was a continuous dialogue during the design process between the business plan, house-style and cooperation with the community. Open Kaart proposed different lay-outs that varied in the ratio of coffee to copy, of public space to production space with the possibility for a counter for ‘to-go’ products. The estimated capacity, required staff members, and expected revenue for the print and/or print shop were calculated by each design variation. The safety and start-up timeline were also considered. A constant question was what the minimum viable product was to begin the project without restricting future growth opportunities.


On a practical level, this meant that both the perspective for the future and the first step of the execution were delivered together, with additional advice where requested. Once the overall framework was established, walls could be demolished, cans of paint ordered, and the layout of the kitchen decided. At the same time, passers-by were asked what they would be willing to pay for the various products. The result of this process was a business at the opening which already closely resembled the final product. The two officials present could pour a cup of coffee and print a certificate as the opening gestures.


Spatial interventions that require permits and other time intensive measures were not included in this phase of the project. For example, making use of a neighboring storage space, adding an extra window, a counter and hanging lighted signage on the façade. The addition of more seating in the former outdoor planters is a possibility for upcoming summer along with exploration into a possible patio in nearby thicket. If you want to make an impact, you have to be visible.


Do you want to experience the story of Kopie Koffie for yourself and contribute to their social mission? Check the opening hours on www.kopiekoffie.nl (NL).ibt

Get acquainted?
E-mail jurrian@deopenkaart.nl,
or call us at +316-51841884