Blog Task 3: Design Brief


Starbucks operates a dozen or more locations in the heart of downtown Chicago in a highly competitive and saturated coffee market.  Space is expensive and flow of customers varies greatly throughout the day.


The waiting area gets uncomfortably crowded at rush hour (several times in the morning and occasionally in the afternoon).


Starbucks’ mission is to inspire and nurture the human spirit – one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.  Starbucks achieves it mission through a number of principals, two of which include its stores and its customers.

Regarding stores, “when customers feel this sense of belonging, our stores become a haven, a break from the worries outside, a place where you can meet with friends.  It’s about enjoyment at the speed of life – sometimes slow and savored, sometimes faster.  Always full of humanity.”

Regarding customers, when employees are fully engaged, “we connect with, laugh with, and uplift the lives of our customers – even if just for a few moments.  Sure, it starts with the promise of a perfectly made beverage, but our work goes far beyond that.  It’s really about human connection.” (Starbucks, 2014).


a) This location has limited space, and there are only 2 entryways.

b) The number of customer per day is relatively predictable, and

the store knows there will be some busy times and some slow times throughout the day.

c) At peak times, there’s limited opportunity to connect with some customers.


d) The exact times of rush hour

e) Extent of customer dissatisfaction with long lines and crowded waiting area

f) Number of customer who go elsewhere when the line gets too long or the store gets too crowded


1) Round corners of long table to accommodate more sitters / standers  (Kimes, 2014).

2) Relocate men’s bathroom and 3 chair customer counter by drink pickup, install 6 set customer counter against back wall, incorporate women’s bathroom into back room

3) Install new machines to make espresso faster

4) Limit drink selection at this location

5) Open new store in nearby location to alleviate traffic

6) Hire more staff at peak times

7) Conduct time-motion study to optimize staff efficiency

8) Use QR codes to expedite customer ordering (Kimbell,L. 2012).

9) Increase music volume when wait is longer (Mandila, 2014).


View from cash register:

View from drink pick up counter:

View from entryway when there’s a line:

Existing Floor layout:

Possible Space reconfiguration:


Starbucks Mission Statement.  Retrieved August 10, 2014 from
Kimbell, L. Rethinking design thinking: Part II. Design and Culture, Retrieved August 15, 2014 from

Mandila, M, and Gerogiannis, V.  The Effects of Music on Customer Behaviour and Satisfaction in the Reion of Larissa – The Cases of Two Coffee Bars, Retrieved August 15, 2014 from

Kimes, S. and Robson, Stephani, The Impact of Restaurant Table Characteristics on Meal Duration and Spending, Retrieved August 15, 2014 from

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  1. Hey James – lots of nice detail here
    Its interesting that you and I have both listed the designs in order of complexity (and possibly cost!)
    It would suggest that although we can grasp the concept of a ‘Concept’ space in design thinking – that we still try to order our thinking in the ‘Knowledge’ space, which is orderly and predictable. (Hatchuel, Le Masson, Weil, & others, 2004)
    My Supermarket problem also had me looking for their Mission Statement and it also similarly emphasises the ‘human experience’ – funny, I’m cynical enough to think that the initial designers perhaps didn’t test their designs afterwards!

  2. James,
    I really like the way your Design Brief has moved from the BIG picture, that is, the Mission statement of Starbucks, to the SMALL, that is, the day-to-day details that expedite the running of the café such as furniture and staffing. I tried to do the same in my library Design Brief. It seems that sometimes the Mission Statements do not always play out in practice. Your Design Brief looks very logical to me. Margo

    • Margo,
      Thanks for the comment about moving from the BIG picture to the SMALL picture. Fortunately, Starbucks has a very defined mission statement and prinicples. I think the design brief would have been more difficult to draft for an independent coffee shop without a succinct mission statement.

  3. G’day Jim,
    Starbucks appears to failed in its Design Thinking strategy by failing as a business in Australia. You may like to read this article: It is interesting from a design perspective that a good idea in one context (U.S.A) does not work in another context (Australia).
    With regard to your brief I am wondering if it went beyond the bounds of a Design Brief by attempting to come up with solutions to the observed problems. Also as stated in Module 2.3 “Designing for the Unknown” are you presuming the “correct answer” to an “obvious problem”

    • Simon,
      Thanks for sharing the article on Starbucks. I didn’t realize they weren’t successful in Australia. From what I understand, Starbucks in the US is known for having stronger coffee than other chains, so I’m surprised that the coffee wasn’t strong enough for the Aussies. Further, I agree that Starbucks’ aggressive growth strategy wasn’t very smart if early signs were showing that the Aussies weren’t enamored with the coffee.

      Good point about attempting to come up with a solution to an observed problem. I wondered if I went too far with that, and am finding it hard designing for the unknown.


  4. I like the idea of QR codes to make ordering faster. I always wonder how Starbucks employees keep from getting confused when everyone is shouting orders across the room, especially at peak hours (often adding to the hectic feeling). Additionally, I support your thinking about rounding the corners of tables to accommodate more sitters. I’ve often walked out of Starbucks and to another coffee shop based on the fact that they didn’t have any available seating.

    Lastly, I like how concise your design brief is. I think you’ve organized it in a way that makes it easy to follow your design thinking thought process.

    According to the Starbucks mission statement, they have a commitment to happy customers and human connection. You would think their designers would be privy to that knowledge and have conveyed that intentionally (Hockenberry, 2012) in the design…

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