Pubs, Clubs, Clothes and Shoreditch

Rooftop Pool

On Monday we received a new brief – putting aside, for now, our coffee research we were asked to research into clothes shops and bars. Not being a particular proponent for the flowing trends in fashion and its surrounding sub-cultures, I knew I would prefer the latter research to the former but regardless, off we went on a shopseeing tour to Shoreditch.

In contrast to our analysis of coffee shops, we found the retail research a bit of a struggle primarily due to none of us feeling overly inclined to buy into the faux-vintage aesthetic so prominent in Shoreditch. It was interesting that, as more often open-minded designers, our prejudices seemed to get in the way a bit when it came down to fashion. Perhaps this is due to clothing very much being a public display of your identity, whether intentional or subliminal, however, once we noticed this was happening we had an understanding that we should not be looking into this from a personal perspective but as design researchers.

The next day we went to Covent Garden and Carnaby Street giving us the opportunity to see some more diversity in style. We parted ways, each went to see different shops and regrouped to discuss any insights making for a much more successful approach. Ben and Chris have already touched upon the madness that was the Build-a-Bear shop and I was quite drawn towards the madness of the Ted Baker décor (though, disappointingly, not so much the clothes). It was also interesting to see comparisons in aspects such as staff service, changing rooms, window displays and floor layout – all aspects clearly designed and implemented with the intention of effectively promoting sales. A few routes for development emerged from here but they are currently being developed so will plan for them to fully emerge, making a bit more sense, in a later post.

Anyway, returning to the previous day in Shoreditch, that night we went out to explore some bars with the idea being that there would be some clear comparisons with our coffee shop insights but there would also be some fresh ones. As with coffee shops, bars are also a place to socialise and can have scope for you to be educated about the product being sold however the outcomes of a lecture in a bar is usually somewhat more detrimental than that of a café or clothes shop!

The first port of call was Book Club which had quite a trendy and lively vibe about it so I ordered a cocktail from their list doing my best to pick one requiring obscure ingredients. The barmaid was unfamiliar with how to prepare the drink (possibly down to a mean choice) but when it arrived it was rather tasty! The bar was host to an eclectic mix of people, from goths to businessmen, and as such had a laid back and welcome atmosphere. In contrast, our next destination – Shoreditch House (fancy pool-on-the-roof image of it at top), had a very exclusive feel to it, primarily down to its paid members only policy (conveniently there was a member in our midst who managed to blag his way in along with surplus guests!) Again, I ordered a cocktail and again it was a purposefully persnickety one. This time, however, there was no hesitation and the preparation was as professional as the presentation. We stayed for a game of table football (Chris beat Genis and Ben beat Utku – though Utku will probably deny this) and had dinner to get a full appreciation of “the research”. Finally we rounded of the night at a near by pub called “The Owl and The Pussycat” so that we could meet up with a few other Mint’s out and about but mainly so that Chris could have his much sought-after pint of ale.

As hazy as insight finding became towards the end of the night, it was great to see comparisons between the three very different venues. The one key thing they had in common however was the aspect of sociability – the seating was always arranged in groups around a table and there was scope to also play games with friends via pool tables, foosball tables, board games and even a ping pong table which was found in Book Club. It was interesting though to consider the solo aspect of bars, it’s something which is still even considered slightly taboo yet is having a drink at a bar on your own so dissimilar to going to a café on your own? We will be further exploring some thoughts on bars this afternoon so I’ll finish up these musing for now.

-Tim


Aug 19
1:37 pm
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Coffee and Insights at Prufrock

As Chris has already mentioned in the last post, there’s been rather a lot of caffeine consumed this week, all for the cause of research though! Whilst he provided a summary into a few of our idea generation techniques experiments, Ben and I will give you a bit of background into where we got our insights…

Firstly, on the suggestion of Tom and Utku (who deserve some grand introduction as they will undoubtedly crop up a lot throughout this blog) - the guys that tell us what to do - we went off on Tuesday morning to check out Prufrock Coffee. Having no knowledge of what to expect other than “don’t ask for a cappuccino with chocolate, you’ll find out why”, we entered, prepared for the pretentious, and were met with a welcome aroma of fresh coffee, friendly faces, and a whole heap of pseudo-scientific-coffee-contraptions. Their minimalistic menu consisted of either espresso or espresso with various volumes of milk so we ordered a round of coffee– none of us ordered a cappuccino.

Our task here was to gain an understanding of the place and highlight avenues for potential development through observations and taking to people so we began by enquiring about the coffee machines but ended up learning a whole lot about coffee. It turns out that the flavour of a coffee is not only dictated by the beans but also by the filtration process – hence the array of machinery. Each one provided a different means for the water to interact with the ground coffee which in turn meant that each one created very different styles, textures and tastes within coffee. Alongside the recognisable general coffee machine there was one which filtered cold water though ground coffee over around 8 hours to result in a caffeine intense yet very smooth chilled coffee; one which required the coffee and water to be manually pumped through a filter into the mug; a device for weighing out to-the-milligram quantities of ground coffee then pouring to-the-millilitre volumes of water at equally specific temperature; and one which worked through an iterative process of evaporation, filtration and (seemingly) magic. There was also a nifty wee device called a refractometer which was used to calibrate the automated machines each morning though analysing water temperatures and the coffee extraction rate. We were further informed that the owner of this small chain of coffee shops is world renowned among barristas having won a number of worldwide lord-of-the-coffee awards (not the official title but this conveys the general idea and my impressed reaction).

What came from this crash course in coffee was an understanding that the team behind the bar really were the experts in what they do. They were not pretentious, they were passionate and happy to share their passion! What’s more, the minimalist menu was really just a result of their understanding of how coffee should be made – not with chocolate sprinkles. This was an interesting area: they are a business trying to educate people about the diverse complexities of coffee though many customers will be content with just an americano. This provided a starting point for us to develop our ideas – “how do we share the passion and knowledge of the staff at Prufrock, to generate a wider community of coffee lovers, without sounding like a dickhead”.

One approach to this was inspired by a handy visual map / shelving unit on the walls of Prufrock connecting coffee packs to their place of origin and their recommended preparation device. We felt this was a great means to make background knowledge in coffee more accessible to your usual coffee drinker. Another point of interest was that elsewhere on the walls around the café, there were pictures of other coffee shops around London. These places were not united under the same business banner, they were cafés which Prufrock admired as peers, with staff which Prufrock were mates with. This chivalry among competitors was pretty admirable and another great kick start for ideas.

Anyway, we left Prufrock buzzing on caffeine and ready to embark on some idea development. Not to give everything away right now, we will save the ideas for later posts as we begin to develop them but, for the time being, Chris’s post shows a few methods we used to approach the idea creation. Thanks to the team at Prufrock for providing a thoroughly enjoyable, albeit brief, tea and coffee masterclass!

I’ll hand you over to Ben now to continue.

-Tim


Aug 12
5:25 pm
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Foundry is a research team at Mint Digital.
Foundry is all about exploring physical objects which connect to the web though digital technology.

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