We <3 Queues

Ahh, waiting in line. The British love it, Americans appreciate it, and Italians have never heard of it. Queue or line areas are places where people receive goods or a service on a first-come, first-serve basis. This, I hope, is fairly obvious. What is not so obvious is the “fine and gentle art of ordering, waiting, and allocation architectures” where products “articulate their value”. Supermarkets, Disneyworld, overhyped NYC clubs – these are all places where physical queue design and product placement come into play. And we know how much design influences experience because let’s face it – EXPERIENCE IS DESIGN.


Matthew Fuller’s chapter on Algorithms in Evil Media illustrate the creative ingenius of the queue design of a certain Piggly Wiggly supermarket. Fuller explains that “the stores provided a single lane through which people could progress through a winding, one-way maze of attractively packaged, ready-to-purchase goods. Customers were queued and positioned to view the widest range of products as they moved, pushing shopping carts, themselves then a contemporary innovation, toward the checkout” (71). Queue planners want the customer’s wait to be as simple and pleasant as possible, while cleverly marketing products consumers are not normally inclined to buy. (Think evil divider in Trader Joe’s – full of three-for-one Chocolate Kona Coffee Truffles and Speculoos Cookie Butter). Clarence Sander’s Piggly Wiggly queue design (as well as Trader Joe’s) seamlessly “couples desire with sequencing and the planning, preparing, ordering, and execution of discrete events” (71).


This gets to me my point about La Colombe (yum! coffee! productivity!). In my previous blog post about the structural design of La Colombe, I address the brillance of the queue design. The line snakes around the centralized square-shaped bar, leaving ample space for a walkway between the line and the sit down coffee tables (it kind of ruins the cafe experience when there’s a plethora of hovering butts and bags in your face). Customers can interact with the baristas, stare at the occasional celebrity/model/actor/singer, as well as drool over a variety of buttery pasteries neatly stacked beneath the glass countertop. The most remarkable thing about La Colombe is there is ALWAYS a line. Even when I think I’m being sneaky and come in for a cappuccino at 4:10pm on a Monday, there is still a line.


This phenomenom, according to Fuller, can begun to be explained by resource allocation. “..what is often scarce is scarcity itself. Thus, paying attention to the mechanisms for the deferral of access, of gratification, for the arrangement of finitude, is repaid many times over” (69). The mere existence of a line at La Colombe makes the coffee more desirable. The average passerby-er probably wants to know why you are standing in a 20 person line for a latte. He thinks to himself: Does La Colombe serve a latte worthy of a 20+ minute wait? Do I want to try this potentially amazing latte? Am I even craving coffee? But he will probably go in anyway because the appearence of a crowd (especially in a neatly coordinated queue dominated by stylish and wealthy creative-types) appeals to human desire and consequently the value of a product or service.


~ by oliviachernoff on April 22, 2014.

One Response to “We <3 Queues”

  1. Group: Lily + Charlie + Bonnie + Kendall
    (Strongest Style + Strongest Argument)
    Despite the text being too close in color, the overall argument was easy to follow. We appreciated the conversational tone of the piece and the strong links to the ecology + life in general + text. You clearly elaborated your points instead of only skimming the surface. Nice transitions throughout your post + it flowed seamlessly + the photographs were a nice break in between the paragraphs.

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