Parnassus Cafe - Condiment Counter Redesign 

By paying attention to the condiment counter as a focal point of the cafe rather than an afterthought, we optimized the flow of traffic and created an environment that would encourage conversation.

Problem Context:

The goal of this project was to redesign one aspect of Paranassus Cafe, a historic cafe located in the basement of the Art building at UW. Our team of industrial design and interaction design students was responsible for rethinking the condiment counter experience.


Project Management + Research 

Field Research, Prototyping, Sketching, Storytelling


Daniel Galan, Claire Jordan, Mollie Thompson


We began our preliminary research in the field observing the coffee culture in various Seattle cafes, and mapping the interactions between artifacts and people that took place.

The next phase of our research was focused specifically on Parnassus Cafe's condiment counter experience. We spent time observing how customers interacted in the space, sketched out concepts, and built life-size prototypes that we tested in the space with customers.

Surprisingly, the most striking insight from our observations, which was unidentified by and even contrary to the spoken preferences of the baristas we interviewed, was that the extremely large size of the counter was the source of most of the customer pain points we observed. We also found that the placement of the counter caused unnecessary congestion.


By breaking the existing condiment counter into two separate smaller stations, one for drinks and a separate one for food, we managed to address customer pain points such as having to reach around or cross paths with others when getting drink items or having to squeeze between people to get to the trash.

By reorienting the drink counter, we've also simplified the flow of traffic within the cafe and created a space for conversation between customers. The organic shape of the new counter tops invite multiple customers to pack in around the counter during peak hours.

We produced a video to present our concept to UW housing and food services team and received positive reviews. Unfortunately, lack of financial resources prevents our idea from being implemented in the near future. 

Renderings of how we reimagined the space.

Renderings of how we reimagined the space.

Research findings from observations and prototype evaluation in Parnassus.

Research findings from observations and prototype evaluation in Parnassus.

Diagrams of customer flows in Parnassus.

Diagrams of customer flows in Parnassus.