Starbucks is a global brand but the company is looking to have more stores that line up with local style after moving designers out of Seattle:
As the designers became more familiar with their surroundings, they began to incorporate the communities’ stories into the designs. There are thoughtful touches like furniture made from reclaimed basketball court wood at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. And a brass-instrument chandelier hanging from the ceiling in the new Canal Street location in New Orleans. But even more interesting than that was the cultural observations the designers were able to make.
With more people on the ground, they began noticing things that might make a difference in not just the aesthetics, but how a particular customer might want to experience the shop. In metropolitan U.S. cities, for example, people tend to come in pairs or alone. They’ll saddle up to a long community table next to a stranger without giving it a second thought. In more urban settings, people will just sit right next to each other, alone but collectively together,” he explains.
While in places like China or Mexico City, the Starbucks experience is much more group-oriented. “People are in bigger groups, so you have think differently about the seating there.” he says. “They won’t crowd together in a banquet like they would in New York City.” This drove the designers to place more individual stools in the shops, so people could drag them around, creating impromptu group seating areas. The design in the Kerry Center location in Beijing, feels like a lounge, with a “coffee workshop” on the second level meant to teach a predominantly tea-focused culture about coffee…
Much of the mass customization comes in the form of colors and materials. For example, in Miami and Los Angeles, the design team is more likely to use a lighter palette of colors to reflect the abundance of sunlight. Southern cities need furniture that is cool to sit on, and beachy locations need durable furniture to account for the sand that gets tracked in. “We were looking at how the floor had worn over 10 years because people were walking in with sand on their feet,” Sleeth says about a store in Miami.
And for local design for all those Starbucks on the similar stroads of suburban America? The examples in the article are primarily from urban neighborhoods that have definable aesthetics.
Starbucks has long claimed to desire to be a “third place” between home and work. How much does local design help the company meet such goals? Do customers feel more at home (and happier and spend more money) in such stores?
Finally, does this sort of local design help people forget the fact that Starbucks is a major multinational corporation? Does it relieve guilt about patronizing Starbucks compared to a local establishment?