When Form Compromises Function

I like those little creative touches. Things that show a business has thought just a little more about enhancing the customer experience. But things can become confused, to the point of comedy when form gets in the way of function:

I visited Penllegaer Woods café for a coffee after a walk. I was a sunny spring day, and the café was crowded.

Sometimes when you order pub food, you take a numbered spoon to your table. This is a simple and effective way of organising orders. The spoon makes the correct table clearly visible to servers, and it stops customers having to walk back to check their table number when placing an order.

So, at Penllegaer café, they operated a similar system, though someone had decided to get a bit more creative and instead of having numbers on the carved wooden ‘table tulips’, they had colours. I placed my order, took my tulip and headed out onto the terrace, to await my coffee.

My table tulip was a creamy colour, and a small handwritten sticker affixed to the base confirmed that it was officially ‘cream’.

My imagination running away with me, this dialogue popped into my head about potential for confusion:

Server: “Pink?”
Customer: “Yes, me.”
Server: “No sorry, love, that’s Fuchsia”

When the server came out with my coffee and called “Pale lemon yellow?” I nearly died!

With that in mind, it’s a good idea to take a step back from it all and consider, when does form get in the way of function in your life and work?

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