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Inside The Global Design World Of Starbucks

CEO Khai Intela
At the 2014 Specialty Coffee Association of America Symposium, Starbucks Design VP Bill Sleeth delivered a talk on the brand’s international design efforts, leaving the audience captivated. This talk hinted that Starbucks was not just...

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At the 2014 Specialty Coffee Association of America Symposium, Starbucks Design VP Bill Sleeth delivered a talk on the brand’s international design efforts, leaving the audience captivated. This talk hinted that Starbucks was not just known for its cookie-cutter franchised cafes and grocery store kiosks, but also for creating some of the most beautiful coffee spaces in the world. The team of Starbucks designers, spread across 18 different design offices worldwide, has created numerous unique cafe showpieces that have captured the attention of coffee lovers and design enthusiasts alike.

Starbucks: A Design Powerhouse

Whatever your opinion may be on Starbucks’ coffee offerings, the brand is undeniably a design powerhouse. With more than 300 designers working across various cities like Miami, Seattle, and São Paolo, Starbucks is the largest cafe design firm globally. These designers have created stunning coffee spaces that stand out in different markets.

Amsterdam, Paris, Chicago, and New Orleans are just a few locations where Starbucks has presented its exceptional cafe designs. For example, in New Delhi, Starbucks offers unique seating areas in its cafe that reflect the local culture. In Paris, the Galeries Lafayette cafe boasts a stunning design where white cups form the face of the counter and adorn the walls. In Amsterdam, a former bank houses a Starbucks cafe that showcases Dutch culture with wooden molds and a tile map telling the story of the Dutch influence on coffee.

One of the seating areas in a New Delhi Starbucks.

Starbucks has also ventured into experimental designs, such as the Oak & Rush cafe in Chicago. This cafe features a long piece of live-edge wood that wraps around the coffee machines, providing an intimate and interactive experience between the barista and the customers.

Creating Unique Experiences

Each Starbucks cafe is designed with careful consideration for the local culture and ambiance. The design team pays attention to historical references, local architecture, and customer preferences. For example, the New Orleans store on Canal and St. Charles brings together elements of hospitality and formality, reflecting the spirit of the American South. In Amsterdam's The Bank cafe, the designers considered how Amsterdammers drink coffee and emphasized the blending of indoor and outdoor spaces.

New Orleans Canal St Exterior

To ensure that their designs resonate with customers, Starbucks involves its staff in the design process. The design, construction, and operations teams work together to create an optimal cafe experience. The feedback from Starbucks partners and the local community helps shape the design and ensures that it aligns with customer preferences.

Looking Ahead

Starbucks aims to continue pushing the boundaries of cafe design and providing unique experiences for its customers. The company believes in creating a synergy between its global brand and the local culture of each store's location. Starbucks also strives to enhance its offerings to expose customers to the world of specialty coffee.

As Starbucks continues to innovate, it will carefully evaluate customer preferences and market trends to determine the best design concepts for its stores. With a combination of analog and digital integration, Starbucks aims to meet its customers where they are and provide a memorable coffee experience.

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All images courtesy of Starbucks, unless otherwise noted.

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