VMSD - March 2013 - (Page 56)
Interview by Robin Donovan
Starbucks’ director of store design, East, on mentoring,
his PAVE Rising Star win and how the coffee giant is turning heads.
Your PAVE Rising Star nomination mentions your work with students.
What do you wish someone had told you as a young professional?
To listen. School’s great because you explore the ends of what design
can be. But most of the time, you’re not given limitations of budget,
and sometimes even construction methods are off the table. Going into
your first job with real-world constraints becomes a radical gear shift.
Before you joined Starbucks, you had a design job at Tiffany & Co.
What’s the most important thing you learned there?
How precious light can be in a retail environment. If jewelry is not
well-lit, or not lit appropriately, it may throw off how shoppers perceive
it and whether or not they want to make that life purchase.
These days, you’re leading the design of Starbucks’ third places.
Two and a half years ago, we started relooking at stores – especially
how they can be defined within the context of a specific neighborhood.
We developed a few kits of parts that translate into three types of
spaces: a more traditional, classical building; a modern, internationalstyle building; or a raw space, like a warehouse.
Increasingly, that means designs with a local flair.
We just finished a store in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center that hosts the
Nets basketball team. We worked with a consultant who found an
old high school basketball floor, and we built the entire store from it.
Can that work in every store? No, but it’s perfect for that location.
Starbucks has a look and feel consumers
recognize. How can designers emulate this
Branding is no longer about graphics on a
door, signage or a certain color. It’s the actual
space and how it envelopes you.
Are there other examples?
We’re designing a café right now that’s going to go into an auto
mechanic’s garage from the 50s. We’re looking at light fixtures made
from brake rotors and community tables made from the hood of a
How are stores like this changing Starbucks’ overall look?
They’re becoming a lot more residential and a lot less corporate, a
lot less expected. It’s reclamation stories, and all company-owned
new stores that we do are LEED certified. It’s something that’s very
important to us: to have the smallest carbon footprint possible and
really make our design a fit for that space.
What’s on the horizon?
People have a preconceived notion of what a Starbucks looks like.
We’re turning some heads, making people look again and say,
“Wow, that’s a Starbucks?” x
56 MARCH 2013 | vmsd.com
BILLIEJEAN CURVAN, NEW YORK
Branding on a Bigger Scale
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VMSD - March 2013
From the Editor
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VMSD - March 2013