Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Assignment 3A & B - Design Safari

I chose to observe people’s behaviour within a cafe environment so went to the Tartan cafe along the road from the art college. When we arrived we sat down at a table next to the wall from where we could see most of the room. Even before I had begun observing the people around me it occurred to me that I was already experiencing unspoken etiquette. We had seated ourselves without interacting with any member of staff. This behaviour I know myself is common in the relaxed environment of a cafe. It would be different if say we had been in a restaurant where a waiter/waitress seats you at a table on arrival. Our decision to sit where we sat was probably instinctive as we knew that we were here to observe we sat with a view of the majority of the cafe. It wasn’t until we had read over the menu for a few minutes that a waitress approached us to take our order. This is clearly what is thought of as adequate time for the customer to make a decision and is another act which adds to the experience and service type we experience we get when in this environment. How was this decision made? The waitress must therefore be aware of customers arriving and leaving for this service to work efficiently. This is easy to manage if the cafe is quiet although later on as more customers began to arrive certain groups were left for slightly longer and were forced to make an effort to be served. This is usually done through eye contact to attract the attention of a member of staff. No-one is ever really taught how to act within this environment, it is just understood from observation and copying of others after visiting cafes regularly. The staff are all dressed in black so it is clearer who to approach. This also adds structure and creates an increasingly effective service.
Whilst observing those around me I began to piece together behaviour which was similar within certain social groupings. I did this through note taking and an annotated sketch I drew on site. Parents are aware of the environment they are in and try to keep their children entertained. Cafes usually supply colouring books and crayons to occupy young children. I noticed as two women sat down with two young children the older boy dropped his jacket on the floor and immediately one woman picked it up and hung it on his chair. This instinct may not have kicked in so soon if they had been at home. They sat down at a table near the door with lots of space around them. This as well as the fact that there is one adult for every child means that they are less likely to irritate other customers and have more control. When they first arrived a waitress automatically brought over a high chair for them which further proves how aware waitresses must be. Another couple with two children arrived later and they sat opposite one another presumably so that their young children could interact and they could have a conversation at the same time themselves. People were leaning inward towards who they were talking to which conceals their conversations and helps stop their voices being lost in the background noise. I noticed others, probably family, didn’t converse with whoever they were with for a length of time which suggests to me that they are relaxed in each other’s company. If someone leaves their table intending to come back they usually leave their jacket on the chair to show that their seat is taken. Women take their bags with them as they contain more valuable items which is common sense. I noticed a woman sitting in the corner of the cafe alone reading a newspaper. She had obviously chosen this area as it seemed quiet. Another calm area was nearer the back of the cafe where mainly older people sat. It only filled up after the front section was full.
From my analysis I realised that the designing and layout of the space is very important. The main desk is situated on the left when you arrive through the front door. This is the most logical location as it is the first thing the customer sees upon arrival and the last upon leaving where they pay. A glass fronted display cabinet containing cakes, biscuits, etc was also near the front of the cafe. This is an example of good design as customers are likely to be enticed by its content’s and therefore more likely to buy. The cafe has many different areas due to pillars and sections of free space although it is still in a way unified as nothing is closed off. The large area in the middle of the room I have selected within my sketch acts as a design feature due to the fact that it is clearly there for a reason. It is opposite the gap in the main counter where food can be easily distributed from. It is central to the working of the cafe in an effective and efficient manner.
After discussion I have concluded that in order to use design to better the cafe’s environment, research could be done through questionnaires handed out to customers to get feedback. In my personal opinion although the Tartan cafe’s layout works well it still lacks originality. Possibilities are limited due to the fact that the image the cafe is trying to portray is traditional. The tables could be rearranged to space out some of the busier areas of tables so that the layout is more balanced and less awkward. I noticed the chairs did not have cushions and I feel this addition would give the cafe an even cosier feel.