Design Brief

Dear Architect,

New World Supermarket is not a particularly nice place to visit.

  • Shoppers with a particular product in mind have to wind their way through many an aisle to get what they need
  • Shoppers who just want bread and milk (popular products) are treated as second class citizens, the bread and milk being as far away from the only entry as possible
  • Shoppers cannot stop for a chat lest they brave the angry glares and muttered comments of the people this backs up behind them
  • Everyday, shoppers become frustrated and stressed as they enter or exit the supermarket – the blind corners and tight passages creating congestion
  • Shoppers with children are not helped, they are hindered.

A supermarket is one of the only places the majority of humans need to visit on a regular basis. While the businessmen rub their hands with glee at this, why can’t it be something more? It’s fair that the owners of supermarkets need to make a buck, no doubt, but why can’t we make the supermarket experience something to look forward to? Something which tugs at the core of our human need to come together – of food and company. Can our relationship with food be closer, like it was thousands of years ago? Can our trips be personalised?

Supermarket 2.0

Where a profit is made, but people are not treated like walking dollar signs
Where people can stop for a chat
Where you can go straight for the item(s) you want
Where you never have to deal with congestion
Where parents or caregivers can tread without fear
Where the people entering and exiting are not clashing together constantly

And what if…

The supermarket became a central hub in the community – like a watering hole in the Savannah…
People can learn more about their food – where it came from: it’s story, it’s exact place of growth or manufacture…
People could pick their fruit and vegetables straight from the vine, or dig them up from the soil…
Your supermarket list syncs with a device on the trolly, guiding you to the items you need and the fastest route…
Foods were grouped in different ways…
There were no aisles…
Wanting bread and milk no longer required you to navigate the twists and turns of the whole supermarket…
Supermarkets had nice views, with lots of windows and natural light…
Played live bands instead of cheesy pop hits…

Supermarket 2.0 would attract more customers. People would feel drawn to the place, as it would morph from a exercise in consumerism to a celebration of human nature. It could become a meeting place in the community, a social event even. At the very least, a painless, easy, enjoyable experience for all users.

We want you to design Supermarket 2.0.


Blogs I’ve commented on:

Greg: A Design Brief

Heather: Blog task 3 – Design brief – Macleod station


12 thoughts on “Design Brief

  1. Yes – I agree with so many of your comments and also wonder why the whole supermarket experience can’t be more pleasant. Small things certainly do make a difference. Tastings (free samples), calming music, wide isles, colorful displays – all cheap to provide yet provide lovely distractions from what can be a mundane ritual.
    All the refrigerated/frozen items are found along the parameters of supermarkets to accommodate freezers and fridges, so reworking a floorplan which still provided that practically would be a challenge.
    And of course there’s cost. When in Melbourne I like to shop at Thomas Dux
    it feels like a deli/old fashioned grocer plus has yummy, healthy food (oh my just found out its owned by Woolworth). Where do I shop? Usually Aldi, which is all about value; not aesthetics.
    What if you turned your post around? Rather than asking why can’t a supermarket be more of a culturally rewarding experience. Perhaps consider how the local farmer’s market could better compete with those ‘big guys’.

    1. A great provocation, Miriam, thanks! Local farmer’s markets are such vibrant, salt-of-the-earth experiences. Is convenience the number one factor here though? I don’t know! (Known unknown?)

      Thanks for the thought-provoking comment.

  2. Hi Matt,

    Great design brief. I certainly would love to use Supermarket 2.0. As a busy, working Mum, I begrudge having to call into the supermarket and face the situations you describe in you observations. Could you also ask the architect to design a better self checkout system – if we can check out ten books in one scan at our local library self-checkout, why can’t we check out multiple grocery items at once? I wonder about the tensions between the constraints, the desirability and the feasibility are in thus design project? The idea is certainly desirable!

    1. Hi Helen, thanks for the feedback.

      Indeed I did wonder about the tensions in this brief, but I thought, you’d never get anywhere if you keep thinking about feasibility. Sometimes you just have to dream big!

      And wow – a great idea about a multi-item checkout. I wonder how that would work? Maybe items could register to a device on the trolley as you put them in, then at the end you just pay? Interesting!

      Cheers for the comment 😀

  3. Hi Matt
    Did you know….The milk, bread and eggs are kept at the back of the store in the efforts to keep customers in the store for longer periods of time, and to “happen upon” something that they didn’t know they needed?
    I have also found this to be frustrating, and have contemplated the idea of a drive through at grocery stores for staple items. In our area, one of the larger chains has drive through for prescriptions.
    I love the idea of the live band!

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Silvana.

      They are tricky places those supermarkets! Other things to keep you inside and eyeballs on products are – they have very few windows to keep you from seeing the outside world, very few clocks so that you loose track of time, products with the highest markup at eye-level. Very sneaky.

  4. Love your Design Brief idea Matt – writing to the Architect and pitching it as Supermarket 2.0 is genius! I’d definitely pick this one out of the crowd because of how different to the normal brief structure it is

  5. Hi Matt,

    The most provocative, yet creative brief I have read. It is “real world” and presents some stimulating ideas. Extensions to the nearest Woolies means a loooooong walk to get the milk and bread. Cafes, live music, views….. Love it!

    What about “Supermarket 2.1; Drive-Thru”? The 10 most purchased products, decided by the customers each week by an online voting App. Lazy, but quick.


    1. Thanks Greg! Funnily enough, I did think about a drive through Supermarket – and you’re right, you could order what you wanted via app (maybe scanning barcodes of the ’empty’ products at your house) then going in and picking up. Perhaps a robot could go around getting your items, I guess a bit like the sorting robots at the Amazon warehouse.

      Right. They just need to get on and make this!

      Cheers for the feedback.

  6. Hi Matt,

    The problems you listed are exactly why I avoid going to supermarkets at all- I mostly get stuff delivered so I do not have to endure the mundane experience…I also think it saves me money as I’m less tempted to buy things just because I see them…(maybe that has more to do with my self control than the supermarket?).

    If I do need to go, I choose to go to a supermarket that only stocks Australian produce- supports local farmers and has somewhat of a market feel, rather than a commercial supermarket. If more commercial supermarkets were like that, I probably wouldn’t have such a problem going to them!

    I really like your idea about people knowing where the food comes from and moving the bread and milk! Going to buy two items should not need to be a huge task.

    I am with @Miewards comment about the local markets the idea- How might supermarket 2.0 be more like a farmer’s market? How might farmers markets compete successfully the the commercial supermarkets? What if commercial supermarkets were not needed at all?

    Great post,


  7. I agree with everyone else, this was the first design brief I read and I must say I think you nailed it. It was interesting, inspiring (as it should be to the architect, right?!) and poses a lot of pertinent questions about the state of supermarkets these days. I, for one, love grocery shopping because I love cooking. But I don’t always love grocery stores. Your Supermarket 2.0 sounds like everything I love about farmer’s markets and shopping local, amplified by a million. Well done!

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