blogitto ergo sum

March 4, 2011

#170- so how’d you like your coffee bar?

Filed under: Uncategorized — yael [ya-el] wagner @ 00:33
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Israeli to the thorns

Children book: "suspicious object at the mall"

Growing up in a country in which survival was the dominant component of the national DNA dictated priorities and choices unique to the country.  If one has to choose between “nice” or alive, do you doubt the choice?  Having your first grade classroom’s walls decorated with posters of suspicious objects you should not touch, lift, or move but rather mark and call the police is very different from having Sesame Street and Dr. Seuss posters on the walls.

TV was B&W, the Beatles were unwelcome “for fear that the performances by the Beatles are liable to have a negative influence on the [country’s] youth” and the prime-minister said “To be or not to be is not a question of compromise. Either you be or you don’t be.” [Golda Meir, Prime-Minister, 1974].  Luxury was a dirty word, showing off was

Hometown 1967

bad taste and modesty were enforced.

The Beatles never made it, but Sir Paul McCartney did. bygones anyway.   and the government knew better than anyone else what’s good for you…   there were only two bread types, B&W, in the neighborhood grocery store.  there was also a Caraway option that we-kids hated, so our parents knew better than to let it into the house, unless they could get half a loaf – YES, you could buy half loaf, the bread was sold as-is, no sealed plastic bag, not sliced.

entrance to my high school

Matching linen either didn’t exits or was unimportant…  we didn’t miss good design, and the devices we used… were few and simple.  functional was king, comfort was for sissies.

when survival is on the top of your “to do” list, being nice, with style, paying attention to etiquette, tact and sensitivity end up at the bottom.  i think it’s no coincidence that there’s no Hebrew word for tact.

So when did design and user experience become our mother tongue?   and now that we all did, how can we explain all the badly designed products, processes, interfaces…  still annoyed with the anti-friendly design of the rooms in Hotel Diagonal 0 [zero], Barcelona.  the first time i’m aware of that the “0” [zero] got a whole hotel for itself, a hotel in which modern and minimalistic become uncomfortable and useless.  Form should not win over function.  Not in a hotel room.


i guess we got spoiled, expect more, demand more…  we got more machines that make our life easier, free-up time… yada yada.  we want comfort, more aesthetics, dare i say harmony?

I’m sure that somewhere out we could find multiple socio-economical and anthropological observations, researches and studies about these cultural changes, in Israel, China, US.  I’m not going to look for them.  we do expect more, we have opinions…  and “close to my thumb” is indeed a design criteria for some mobile apps….

this recent thread of thought, in case you wonder, started following Barefoot Coffee redesigning the counter in the Santa Clara coffee shop.  it was just too much style, very little comfort and no flow to speak of.


Barefoot Coffee, Santa Clara

Looks nice, right? So let me ask you this; where do you order the coffee? Where do you get it? Where does the line start? where does it end? Confused? I was too. to be honest, it took the Barefoot staff some time to figure it out.  why would one spend so much space to show off a display of drip coffee?  do they plan to sell tickets to the drip show?  in order for one to know what’s available, one has to read all the signs spread from one end of the counter to the other.  and while i know all too well that the profit margins on coffee are significantly higher than those of baked calories, don’t you think that the baked calories deserve some proper display space, so one won’t have to search for them.  now they are all hidden at the very far end of the counter, by the cashier.  maybe the hint is that i should avoid them… which is not a bad hint as far as hints go. but this is not the nutrition police, this is a coffee bar that i love its coffee very much… here is where I don’t need to ask for an extra shot of espresso, and the wi-fi is pretty stable, unlimited and free.


so what do you expect of the well-designed espresso counter?

  • easily identified line for ordering
  • menu for liquids and solids displayed in plan sight
  • clear line for picking up drinks
  • having the condiments easily spotted
  • ability to accommodate the brown water drinkers promptly, without making the real coffee drinkers wait too long- segment the customers based on their needs/requirements and serve them accordingly
  • a delivery system that does not require shouting names of people and drinks
  • once and for all figure what delivery system is more efficient; one person takes the order, make the drink, delivers, moves to next?  different people tasked with order and delivery?  I’ve seen all combos, and TBH, the skill level plays a great role in the success of whichever method you pick

how is this for a start? for weeks now I’ve been observing the counters in the coffee bars i frequent.  sadly, no one got a perfect, working-for-all solution.  desperate, i turned to David Schomer’s Blog.  i love this part “Espresso preparation is unique in that it combines performance art, the fluid dance of a talented barista pouring latte art, with the joy of sweet coffee and silky milk textures.  The closest thing is the sushi chef who creates intricate sashimi in full view of the customer at the sushi bar.” there’s no need for me to copy-paste David’s brilliant blog the on espresso bar design. you can find it HERE. as since one picture is better than 1000 of bad espresso bar experiences,  this picture will do.

Source: note the "route". the wait is “shorter” if you have something to do or look at.

The bar, by the way, is not exactly around the corner.  you’ll have to make it to Seattle.

Espresso Vivace Roasteria, with 4.5 start from 188 yelpers.
532 Broadway E., Seattle, WA 98102.

Clipart Sources:


  1. Great Blog! I am drinking my tea here in sunny but not warm Dublin, considering a design joke comment but, eh, all I can think of is: you lost me when the font changed at “Looks nice, right?” .
    I should mention that my parents grew up in a time of B&W tv and the RC Church denouncing The Beatles (but at least they played here, albeit just once) , tonight however J. Bieber sings in Dublin, and no doubt it is a sign that our nation’s youth are beyond corrupted 🙂

    Comment by Fionn — March 8, 2011 @ 07:09 | Reply

    • Thanks Fionn.
      I’m sorry. You are so right. i have been resisting learning HTML. The unavoidable sad result is that whenever i copy-paste, i run the risk of introducing additional formats into the blog. when you don’t know HTML, to scan meaningless “align=”alignright” width=”144″ caption=”Children book: "suspicious object at the mall"”]<img class=”, looking for something that looks like <font family… SPAN…… is a challenging task. It’s very easy to miss a “” when all I know is that it ends the font formatting command that started somewhere earlier with another .
      An unacceptable excuse from someone who just blogged about style – you are right-on here too.
      and of course we agree on the fever subject. too sweet, too whatever it is that makes normal, peaceful people want to kick an innocent cute something… NO- this is not a suggestion or call for violence.

      Comment by yael wagner — March 8, 2011 @ 07:35 | Reply

    • OK, i did go in and deleted every “…. ” i spotted. if you know HTML, feel free to laugh. figuring a language just by observing what its symbols-“words” do to my blog and its format is not the best way to learn it.

      Comment by yael wagner — March 8, 2011 @ 07:39 | Reply

  2. You should – no – Must read “Design of everyday things” by Donald Norman who makes very similar observations to yours but about doors (not the band – real doors) which should be even simpler to operate then a coffee bar.

    And as for the nostalgic beginning:
    That neighborhood was named after the parliament chairman
    Romanians, Moroccans Polaks mixed in the sands
    Lots of pickled cucumber
    Lots of bread with Halva
    In the annual hit parade Delila is #1

    There was sand
    There was Yossi
    So much sand
    so much Yossi


    Comment by Nir — March 9, 2011 @ 10:18 | Reply

    • Nir: Who wrote the poem? it reads familiar, but i can’t figure it out. help please.
      will look for the book. thanks!

      FYI: next object is the salt and pepper “sachets” on airplanes. in a couple of weeks of course.

      Comment by yael wagner — March 9, 2011 @ 11:06 | Reply

    • Or the original version (Louder) here:

      Comment by Nir — March 10, 2011 @ 00:32 | Reply

  3. […] start up blog, steve sammartino I found Steve’s blog while researching for “#170 – how’d you like your coffee bar” blog […]

    Pingback by Invest 5 minutes in glass (via Start Up Blog) « blogitto ergo sum — March 10, 2011 @ 02:56 | Reply

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