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Design Critique: Products for People

Encouraging usable designs for a better customer experience.

Jun 26, 2007

In a special episode recorded on location, Tom Diab, proprietor of the Gourmet Chocolate Cafe in Chelsea, Michigan, shares his ideas on customer experience design for cafes. Through a bonanza of entertaining storytelling, Tom, a former schoolteacher and drug rep for Pfizer, tells Tim and guest cohost Chris how he and his wife decided to open a cafe, how they found a location, the design choices they made for the physical spaces and menus and goods offered, and why small businesses can innovate better than corporate competitors.

Some of Tom's ideas include: Design for your customers, not yourself; test your designs with customers before implementing; creatively balance the needs of child-free patrons with parent patrons to provide an ambience for all; co-advertise with competitors; organic design iteration is good; invest in your customers' community and you will be rewarded in the long term. You'll hear conceptual references to field research, usability testing, and participatory design throughout Tom's narrative.

The website for the Gourmet Chocolate Cafe may be found at, but this episode is not about websites--it's about the brick and mortar experience of cafes. Tim is a "power user" of the Gourmet Chocolate Cafe and Chris provided the "newbie" perspective. Make sure you watch the video tour in Design Critique episode 32a to see the design features we discuss in this interview.

This episode's content has been certified 100 percent iPhone-free by the Design Critique Anti-Hype League of America.