Back to Campus: Starbucks Store Designs Perfect for Hitting the Books

Washington, D.C. may be best known as the nation’s capital – but it’s also a college town with more than 20 colleges and universities within the city limits alone. As college students head back to campus for a new school year, visit three Starbucks stores that draw inspiration from their academic surroundings.

George Mason University - Fairfax, Virginia

When Starbucks designers first looked at the location for a new Starbucks store in George Mason University’s student center, they knew they would have to get creative.

“The store footprint was a small one, with very little wall space and hardly any room for seating,” said Starbucks store designer Jill Brunstad. “We decided that if the only place we can fit seating is in the middle of the store, then let’s anchor the center with a fabulous feature hanging from the ceiling that will resonate with the students.”

The design team set about trying to create a “flying bookcase” from reclaimed textbooks. They then found an origami artist who could fold pages of the books to make them more sculptural and dynamic.

“We had never done anything like this before,” Brunstad said. “So we did a mock-up and figured out a nice composition with a variety of books. Then we packed it all up and the contractor put it together on-site like a puzzle.”

The final result is a one-of-a-kind collage of 34 flying books interspersed with nine clear glass globes that sparkle. Running along the perimeter of the café is chalk artwork reminiscent of typical classroom chalkboards. The store design tips its hat the university’s renowned science program with light fixtures made from iron pipes above the artwork evoke the feeling of a science lab.

American University - Washington D.C.

At American University in northwest Washington, D.C., designers started with a much larger space with room to fill. Brunstad and the design team opted for a long banquette seating area with a wall treatment above that serves as a nod to the store’s scholastic environment.

“Our original idea was to create a book wall above the banquette,” said Brunstad. “But the 37-foot wall would have required 6,000 books, and would have been more weight than the floor could support.”

Instead, the team made a three-dimensional faux book wall with stock molding. A variety of stock molding pieces – curved, straight, fluted, flat and square – were put together and stained to create bookshelves and even the books themselves.

“We created a subtle design of the Starbucks siren amongst the books peeking over the banquette,” Brunstad said. “It’s as if she’s asking, ‘Are you doing your homework?’”

In addition to the flexible seating at the banquette with plenty of places to plug in, the designers also added a high-low community tables where students could stand around and chat, as well as soft seating for those who want to sit down and dive into a book or tablet.

“On college campuses, we have an opportunity to introduce the brand to young adults,” Brunstad said. “I try to make the designs a little more whimsical with elements that are fun and interactive.”

George Washington University - Washington, D.C.

At George Washington University’s Gelman Library store, Starbucks designer Miguel Claros wanted to create the look and feel of a cozy library space. He and his team designed an efficient area for ordering at the front of the store, and more intimate spaces away from the hustle and bustle toward the back.

“We wanted to keep the library in mind with small details like the library seating,” Claros said.

For a focal piece, the team created a piece with wood slats to represent books with art installed on library tracks with rails and a rolling ladder. The “books” were finished in GWU’s signature blue and gold.

“It’s a modern abstract version of what a library would look like if it were a piece of art,” Claros said.

Mobile Trucks Return to Campus

In addition to traditional brick-and-mortar campus stores, Starbucks is bringing its mobile trucks back to three college campuses this fall following the introduction of Mobile Trucks on college campuses in 2014.

The mobile service offers a menu of drinks and food nearly identical to what customers would find in their neighborhood Starbucks stores. The Starbucks mobile truck can move to various locations on campus throughout the day, making it convenient for students and faculty to grab a snack or beverage. While hours will vary on each campus, trucks are able to adjust business hours to suit the needs of their customers, in some cases staying open later than a dining hall.

Students at Arizona State University can now visit Starbucks mobile truck on-campus. Trucks will be coming to James Madison University in Virginia and Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina in the coming weeks.

thumbnail for What’s inside a more accessible and inclusive Starbucks store?

What’s inside a more accessible and inclusive Starbucks store?