Tuesday, 2 March 2010

For my next assignment we were asked to go into the public sphere and blend into the environment and observe. The task was to watch how people went about their business and daily life and to note my observations on their behaviour. My chosen place from the list provided to us was a coffee shop. My chosen location was the Tartan cafe on Perth Road. I went with two other design students on a Saturday late morning so we got the shift over of people from late breakfasts to the busyness hustle and bustle of lunchtime rush. I noticed a lot of people came in and paused for very different periods of time deciding where to sit as it was self service to find a seat creating a more personal choice and relaxed atmosphere. A lot of people if in groups tried the back of the cafe as there are big comfy leather sofas located there. This demonstrates the service design of this cafe as attracting social gatherings to mull over conversation while enjoying the refreshments available. I located myself at the side near the entrance of the cafe where I had a clear view of people entering, leaving, paying. I wanted to blend into the atmosphere so people would act normally and not amend there behaviour as I would suspect people would if they realised someone was watching them. It was really interesting to see the array of emotions conveyed, some people came bouncing in with friends full of joy and laughter while others seemed to be there for more of business type, serious meetings. A stressful vibe was also emitted as consumers rushed in to grab a quick bite to eat and even just had time to grab a takeaway. As the morning progressed I noticed the shift in people as they replaced each other at each table, different conversations and situations arising every time. There was one table in particular which was designed for two people which on entering through the door would appear to be quite tucked away whereas it is actually located quite far out from the wall which I feel would make someone feel rather uncomfortable if by themselves. From personal experience I would always try to tuck myself away and not draw attention. I noticed that nearly every person who was there alone at some point read a newspaper while eating or drinking or waiting to be served. Once someone would get up to go to the toilet for instance or to go and look at the cake stand they would always try and leave a possession, most commonly a coat to mark their territory. However, I also observed that people wouldn't leave anything of value lying about for example their mobile phone, purse or handbag. In the time I was observing there was also quite a lot of children there with parents with nearly a ratio of for every child there was one adult. This could suggest having more control in the public environment. Nearly every child seemed to have their coat off and quite demanding in the respects of needing a lot of attention. The cafe provided the children with colouring in sheets to amuse them which I feel is a good design. Other observations included how well the staff worked as a team and the communications between them. They were all distinguishable as they were all dressed in black and they seemed to integrate really well with the customers. Coffee shops to the consumer, the outside eye can be a relaxed environment in which to contemplate and reflect whereas to the staff member can be the total opposite, a lot of rushing about and stress. While there I did a quick sketch which I have scanned in which you can see that the top of this post. It was drawn from my position at the side of the coffee shop. I have noticed from looking back at it that on entering the cafe you are immediately beside the tray bakes and yummy things which would persuade you that your eyes are bigger than you belly, again a smart design element. Each of the tables were spaced out quite nicely, I didn't feel too isolated or that my privacy was invaded. This also gave the waitresses a comfortable amount of area to walk about and serve people in, I also took a video on my phone while there. Admittedly I felt like a bit of a creep trying to take this video discreetly so no-one would notice as you can hear me say in the video! Overall I enjoyed this assignment as I openly admit I am a natural people watcher and could happily sit for hours watching the world go by with a cup of tea. It truly is amazing what you can pick up on and learn from reading into and observing other peoples behaviour!

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