Emma Booty is the Creative Director of Conran Studio, our product and brand design team, and resident brand-building expert.
Last month, she spoke at the Interior Motives China conference in Beijing – a major gathering for the Chinese domestic car design industry.
Cutting through the petrol fumes with typical panache, Emma regaled a 350-strong audience with a story about coffee.
Bear with her…
“…un piccolo momento di piacere” – in drab English, a small moment of pleasure.
As designers, we’re interested in transforming items of necessity into such moments.
Britons, on average, spend £3 a day on takeaway coffee.
£3 a day makes a £5 billion business, and a greater household expense than the gas bill.
Until 1994, the coffee shop market was relatively immature – the baristas wore baseball caps, and served lacklustre pints of weak, sweet, American-style coffee. Did you know that the French call American coffee jus des chausetttes – literally, ‘sock juice’?
Then something changed. There was an infusion of Antipodean personality into the British (and especially the London) coffee scene. An infusion of social ease. The emphasis was no longer on the utility of a caffeine fix, but the luxury of a moment of pleasure.
Coffee shops started to say something about us: bright, confident, sexy, energetic. The market diversified – not just Italian-American, but Australian, British and Scandinavian. There was a new confidence in national personality.
With it came a natural increase in quality.
The American stalwarts took note of this shift – and tried to inject a little personality of their own.
What does this mean for the Chinese car market?
“…un piccolo momento di piacere” – a move away from necessity.
Cars are more than appliances, more than status symbols. They represent a way of living.
As the Chinese car market matures, cars will evolve from necessity to lifestyle choice.
How will China influence the rest of the world?
By infusing design with Chinese personality – with themes of economy, family values and respect.
Just as Australian social ease was an authentic fit for coffee shop culture, so these Chinese values fit plumb into the new, leaner automotive industry.