The ergonomics of a coffee shop
Have you ever walked into a Starbucks or a Costa and felt like the shop itself was giving you a gentle hug? The smells and the colours, the muzak in the background.
Have you ever wondered why?
Why do you feel like you could spend an afternoon, Macbook under your arm, lukewarm frappa-mocha-chino in one hand and a pile of reading material by your side in there?
It is fairly complex but also fairly simple answer, the answer is everything.
Everything can of course be broken down into sections;
The muzak, this, if you weren't aware, is a specific genre of music specifically made for the retail industry, for coffee shops and elevators, places where you are both listening and not listening. It is a gentle collection of songs and just music that gives you a feeling of relaxation without drawing any attention to itself.
The smells, this is of course as simple as can be, they sell coffee. Coffee smells good.
The decor, this can be a little more interesting. I recently visited a Starbucks in Bangkok which stretched across three floors with a swooping spiral staircase somewhat akin to something from a 5* star hotel. The walls were a pleasing cream (coffee froth coloured I may note) and across all the walls was a continuing print, it showcased a vector artwork of an ocean, intertwined with the waves were patterns of flowers. It was an amazing and calming image.
The furniture, I can discuss the furniture of shops, restaurants and fast food cafes all day, the fascinating discussion of a stool over a chair can spur hours of conversation. Basically coffee shops are comfortable. Not too comfortable that you feel as though you can sit all day without moving, they want you to move so you buy more things, they want you to become gently bored and smell the coffee and keep buying more. They want you to be comfortable so you feel you want to come back.
The furniture is not just comfortable to sit on, it is comfortable to look at, the tables in almost all coffee shops are rounded, the chairs designed like armchairs are rounded edges. The stools at higher tables are sharp and slot neatly under the desks. The flooring is usually unnoticeable, either tiled or a monochrome.
The idea is that the space is nonthreatening, simple and calming, you should feel peaceful, proactive and at home - but not so at home you take your shoes off and pull out a blanket!
To surmise, coffee shops, the big chains that is, have spent a considerable amount of time and money creating a space that is the perfect balance of everything one may need, whether its a warm place to write your book, a cool place to escape the sun, a dry place to hide from the rain, a comfortable place to just hang out with friends or a place to be alone. They have tweaked simple elements of furniture and general ergonomics to create this safe space.