In the Fall 2016 semester through Berkeley Innovation, I worked on a project for HEXA Tea, a tea cafe chain looking to open up in Berkeley and other locations in the Bay Area. I collaborated with Mimi Largier, Vanessa Ng, Lian Song, and Josephine Zschiesche on this project.
Our client wanted us to help them design a modern cafe with a scalable design that would act as a third space for college students and young professionals. They also wanted to educate customers about traditional tea culture, as they planned on sourcing high-quality tea from Taiwan. Below is the problem statement we decided to focus our project on:
How might we define a unique HEXA customer experience while taking into consideration the company’s traditional and natural values?
We conducted 12 interviews with college students and young working professionals in Berkeley to understand their daily routine and the tea/coffee shops they frequent.
Based on the insights from our interviews, we created three primary customer personas:
Joanna — “The Tea Lover” who values quality tea tasting and options
Daniel — “The Hurried Student” who wants speed and convenience
Natasha — “The Instagrammer” who visits cafes based on their aesthetics
We also did observations at various cafes in Berkeley to gain a better understanding of how people interacted in different spaces. At each cafe, we visually mapped the layout of the store and flow of people. We also documented the menu selection, the ordering process, and customer interactions.
In order to better understand what type of atmosphere and physical layout would appeal to customers, we sent out a Google Form survey with pictures of contrasting cafe settings.
For instance, one of the questions asked participants to choose between cafes with differing amounts of lighting:
From the 81 responses we received, the key insight was that people preferred a mix of traditional and modern design, with a bright and productive atmosphere.
Below is a summary of our survey results.
With all the insights that we gathered from research, we worked on creating our final deliverables, which included the development and design of the menus, as well as a physical space design plan.
In our initial interviews, we found that most people valued quality over quantity, and preferred a menu with limited options. Customers would also be less overwhelmed with a smaller selection to choose from when ordering. However, when we sent out surveys with our proposed drink menu of four varieties of tea, the majority of people thought that there was an insufficient amount of options. Many people wanted the addition of fruit, floral, and herbal teas. Therefore, we created another menu that would be separate from HEXA’s "specialty menu" to accommodate for people who wanted other varieties of tea.
While we found that the majority of people in our initial interviews wanted to see pastries offered on the food menu, our client wanted to offer a range of snacks from different parts of the world, that would cater to a diverse range of customers. With convenient breakfast options lacking in Berkeley, we focused on creating a menu that would offer an assortment of foods that customers could easily grab and go.
We sent out a Google Form survey with a list of foods to see what people were interested in. After narrowing down the options based on the 78 responses, we conducted user testing with the menu on the right. We received positive feedback, and many enjoyed that the offerings were unique from the typical snacks served at tea shops and cafes.
Below is the finalized food menu and a poster that mapped where the foods originated from.
Physical Space Design
Based on our user research, we identified the following interior design elements to include in our physical space design plan:
A contrasting ambience — divided areas for couches and individual table seating
Mix of modern and traditional elements
Bright, natural lighting
Ordering counter in the back
Menu with graphics on the wall
Work friendly environment with lots of seating, large tables, and power outlets
Our client wanted a modifiable, but also scalable floor plan that could be easily replicated across many locations in the Bay Area. We proposed creating modular zones to separate the spaces where people could have a quiet area to study, and an area where people could have conversations. We then created a customer flow to explore what the customer experience could look like.
To create the final iteration of our physical space design, each of us imagined a customer flow and interior design layout that focused on one aspect of HEXA’s three main goals:
Efficient, streamlined process
Tea education and communicating the HEXA brand story
Afterwards, we collaborated on the final physical space design by combining the best ideas from our divergent designs.
Going into this project, I was intimidated by the ambiguity and scope of the problem we defined. However, having an open-ended problem statement allowed us to be more open-minded when conducting user research and coming up with ideas.
From this project, I learned a lot about how to write meaningful research questions, utilize various research methods, and create customer flows. I also learned that brainstorming sessions are most effective when everyone in a team comes in with their own unique ideas and designs to discuss.
This was my first non-UI/UX design project and there was a bigger focus on user research compared to the design projects I had worked on in the past. Before this experience, I thought product design was all about having an intuitive user flow and an aesthetic interface. By working on a spatial design project, I realized the value of having a deep understanding of user needs and coming up with solutions that address those needs.