Friday, 5 March 2010

Design Safari and the Discovery of Coffee

This assignment focused on observing people and their behaviour in public spaces. Two of us coffee virgins decided to have a wee rest and a go at getting addicted to the brown liquid in Costa on a Tuesday around 4pm.

We queued up and ordered our Mochas (easing into the coffee) just like everyone else and then chose our seats carefully to obtain an ideal spying position. I can't say that we were blown away with hectic activity, Costa was pretty quiet but this allowed us to inspect the clientele more closely.

Costa in the Overgate is a sort of semicircular, sunken pit at one end of the shopping centre (arguably the busiest area of the centre). There are three entrances and exits to the Costa pit meaning that people can move around very freely. We sat with our backs to one of the pit walls, facing the counter as you can see in the photo above.

99% of customers knew exactly what they were doing when they entered the pit. They clearly had their own routes from their chosen entrance around the tables to the counter. People went directly to the cake cabinet and immediately looked up at the board which listed drinks and prices. An orderly queue would then form behind this person. Each person forced to stop in-front of the enticing cakes to look at the board. The clever positioning of the board and cakes worked. Around 95% of people purchased a cake with their drink (we were well behaved and resisted). It was almost as if they felt obliged to take a cake after standing in-front of them. Most of the customers were clearly seasoned Costa users as they knew the system. They switched to Costa mode and went through the motions, arriving at the till with their money out ready and waiting. In stark contrast, the workers behind the counter were constantly hectic despite the small number of customers.

Even though there were very few customers, there was still a broad selection of ages and sexes. Most customers were sitting in same sex pairs. There was no sign of snobbery with a full range of classes.

Everyone was very relaxed, sitting having finished their drinks, just chatting. Most people seemed to only be having on drink and sitting for a long time after finishing. Nobody seemed to be looking around they were all deep in conversation. Even two people sitting with notepads and cameras staring at everyone raised any sort of alarm.

Choosing a seat proved very important. The centre seats were largely avoided with people opting to sit around the edge of the pit even if it meant having to move dirty cups and plates. Surprisingly, the few people who were sitting alone did choose to sit towards the middle of the seating area. These lone customers sat day-dreaming not looking around them at all.

There was very little interaction between customer and worker resulting in very swift service. We counted a substantial number of takeaways. Looking around us we found that most people were drinking coffee in some shape or form while only children were drinking juice or hot chocolate.

We only had one definite "new to Costa" couple but they very quickly worked out the simple system and in the end were behaving just like everyone else.

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