Local Art Enhances the Starbucks Customer Experience in Asia

Art plays a major role in the design of Starbucks stores. Michael Izon, director, Store Design in Starbucks China/Asia Pacific region, shares how his team has uncovered artists, who work in a variety of mediums, to enhance stores in the Philippines and Thailand. By highlighting the work of local artists in these locations, the company is able to tell a visual story of coffee while baristas prepare beverages and showcase their coffee craft.

The process of finding a local artist varies by store.

“Sometimes we seek the help of companies that represent local artists, while other times we find artists by chance,” said Izon. “We once discovered an artist’s work while walking the streets of Hong Kong and asked to commission his work for one of our stores.”

Decisions about artwork occur at the beginning of the store design process.

“Even during the early design stages, we’re considering art,” Izon said. “We call our process holistic store design because we don’t want elements like artwork to look additive, we want them integrated in the overall design and to become a natural part of the store.”

For Izon, art in Starbucks stores should be visually pleasing, but also educational.

“We want to do more than showcase pretty artwork. We want to help tell the coffee story,” he said. “The stories may not be completely obvious to customers, but if they are interested, partners can share the details with them.”

Coffee As Art

Ella Hipolito had prior experience working with Starbucks in the Philippines before creating artwork for the S’Maison Starbucks in Pasay City. She is known for using coffee grounds to create realistic paintings.

“We wanted to highlight the work that takes place on Philippine coffee farms,” said Izon. “Ella created a huge landscape painting on one of the walls in the store that depicts farmers harvesting coffee cherries.”

Hipolito used coffee grounds to develop smaller paintings on canvas that depict the farmers in action.

“We wanted the art to tie back to the coffee farmer story and give it a deeper meaning,” he added.

Melding Traditional Styles with Modern Design

As customers enter the Gaysorn Starbucks in Bangkok, Thailand, they encounter a mural that represents Starbucks commitment to travel the world to source coffee. The mural was created in partnership with Jeentee Baiposuwan, a local artist and graduate of Silapakorn University.

“Jeentee is a traditional Thai painter and used this style to develop a wonderful piece depicting the Starbucks Siren and the beginning of the Starbucks coffee journey,” said Izon.

Smaller landscape paintings featured throughout the store share the story of single origin coffees and farmers.

“Gaysorn is a premium mall, so the store has a luxurious look to it and the artwork reflects that as well,” added Izon.

The Language of Art

When Izon and team received the design brief for the Siam Discovery store in Bangkok, the vision was to showcase Starbucks global social responsibility efforts in addition to highlighting coffee.

“With any design activity, people come to the table with general ideas and a vision of what they want to showcase,” Izon said. “As designers, we have the joy of using our creativity to take an idea and have it coalesce in a way that’s thoughtful and detailed within a store environment.”

In the seating area of the store, there is a large wire-art installation also created by Jeentee Baiposuwan. It depicts 12 of Starbucks social impact initiatives that bring awareness to the importance of clean water, youth and farming practices. Customers can discover hidden messages in the wire art depending on their vantage point in the store.

“There’s a lot of satisfaction knowing that what we design on paper for several months, will engage customers for many years,” said Izon. “I always enjoy seeing customers and partners enjoying their experience in a store. That makes me proud and makes the whole design process so meaningful.”

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