As we move through November, our service design project at Buzz Mill Coffee House is beginning to bear fruit. Today we presented our insights and problem statement to the business, which showed how we are framing and narrowing the focus of our efforts.
In the design process, insights are the phase where bigger discoveries from the data are made and things start to get exciting. Insights are built on the products of our synthesis phase, which included themes, service slices, concept models, and other artifacts that helped us sift through our data and find interesting behaviors and feelings. Insights take those findings, ask why they might be happening, then use abductive reasoning to answer those questions. The results are often surprising and can reveal underlying motivations and fundamental human truths.
From the data we initially gathered at Buzz Mill and the products of our synthesis, we began to form insights that went in several directions. Since it is impossible to address every issue, we had to narrow down our problem space and decide on where we would put our focus. The most compelling insights seemed to point towards how people experience Buzz Mill as a coffee shop or bar, and thus miss a large part of the value Buzz Mill offers through social activities and opportunities for connecting to nature.
In our presentation, we decided to show the experience of the average patron at Buzz Mill. When looking at our themes, we noticed that there was a very clear narrative of how most folks experience Buzz Mill.
From the moment someone walks into the space, there is a clear sense of the camp aesthetic of the decor. There are rustic picnic tables outside, a fence made of tree limbs, a wood pile, and the outside of the physical building resembles a log cabin. Aligned with the vision for the space of it to be a community center, there is a large sign at the entrance welcoming folks to the “Neigborwoods” and a calendar below letting you know of the events there that week.
Quickly your attention shifts to the main product of Buzz Mill: its beer and alcohol. Directly next to the front door there is a wooden plaque acknowledging the feat that Buzz Mill has attained in being within the top volume sellers of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the country for three straight years. When you step inside, you immediately notice interesting, rustic looking signage letting you know about their coffee drinks and various cocktails.
Conversation with the staff begins around the topic of ordering. While waiting for a drink, your attention is directed to the infused alcohols which are flanked with lights highlighting their place behind the bar. Your interaction with staff is a noticeably pleasant transaction. You may notice a sign or two alluding the to larger social mission of the place (possibly the sign on the jar of dog treats mentioning that they cost a dollar which will be donated to charity or a rotating image on the television screen letting you know about an upcoming volunteer event). But it is quite likely you will miss these signs altogether.
Outside again, you notice a space conducive to social gatherings with its large tables and stage. If there is not an event going on, most likely you will sit down and notice some others around you enjoying a beer, smoking a cigarette or working on their computer. If there is a Lumber Society (their wilderness survival education club) event going on, you may learn how to make a really neat knife but never be communicated the larger purpose of the collective events to prepare you to go camping.
The journey described above shows how people currently experience Buzz Mill. Buzz Mill is viewed as a bar and coffee shop, so people often fail to see opportunities to participate in social activities or to connect with nature. We propose that Buzz Mill should seek to inspire the experience it intends for its patrons to have.
After presenting our insights and problem statement to management at Buzz Mill, the response was warm and engaged. Buzz Mill is looking to open another location in Austin, just up the road from AC4D, and they asked us what the ideal experience at Buzz Mill would be like. This is a great opportunity to inform how the new location may feel and the kinds of interactions that could occur there.
It is just four short weeks until we give the business our final presentation, which will consist of design criteria and recommendations.