Short Assignment #5: Research and Exploration

In order to brainstorm design improvements for the coffee vending machine we observed in the Student Center, I decided it would be a good idea to observe how people usually obtain their morning coffee. To research this, I decided to also use myself as a subject (as I am a frequent coffee drinker) and make note of the ways I go about obtaining coffee. Sometimes it is made at home, often is it purchased at a coffee shop or café such as Starbucks or Java world in the College of Computing and College of Architecture. I decided it would be most effective to analyze these methods of obtaining coffee and make note of the process that occurs. Aside from the assertive role of getting coffee myself, I will also research numerous coffee vending machines to see how these differ from the one we have observed. Do the interfaces vary dramatically from the one we saw? How can fast coffee be more efficient and still be delicious? Hopefully these answers can be found in researching various coffee vending machines.

starbucks production line

We’ve all been to a Starbucks before. It’s the method that millions of people use every morning to get that fresh hot cup of joe before they start a day of work. Pouring a cup of coffee may sound like a simple job, but designers pay special attention to designing each and every Starbucks uniquely to make sure efficiency of the work flow is maximized. The buyer will start at the counter where the checkout is to order their beverage. From the checkout, the drink is ordered, payment is received, and the Barista writes down the order on a recycled paper sleeve or cup. The consumer can also order any food items such as pastries or lunch items from the register before/while the drink is made.

On this sleeve, the Barista can indicate everything they need to about your drink. The Temperature, strength, decaf or regular caf, amount of shots, pumps of syrup, milk, a custom box, and the drink type. There is space for human error in this step, but all Starbucks Baristas are trained when they’re first hired to learn the symbols that stand for each drink and how to write and understand the system. The customer is then told that their beverage will be ready soon and to proceed to the bar where their drink will appear. Starbucks policy is that the customer should wait no longer than 1 minute from that time to receive their drink, but this time does vary depending on the line. Ideally though, the flow of the bar should be efficient enough to crank out the quality beverages in a short amount of time.

Coffee vending machine

Here is an example of a coffee vending machine, which is a little bit similar to the one my partner and I observed in part 1. The difference here is that the user is displayed with a menu with the corresponding codes and prices rather than a simple button-grid system. However, this layout might be more useful to users who aren’t entirely comfortable with ordering a coffee without a Barista to assist them in what they are ordering. I find that the menu system would appeal to more people because it’s more inviting for someone to inspect even if they aren’t sure they want a coffee. Someone may feel uncomfortable moving closer to a machine to inspect buttons, but a menu feels much more familiar. The only problem I have with this machine is the aesthetic of it. The cold silver look it has may be familiar to an espresso machine, but at this size it just looks cold and unfriendly. Coffee consumers would probably respond better to a warm colored palette similar to the colors Starbucks tries to integrate into their store and product designs.


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