Details in Detail

The big picture of a small detail

Cakes, coffee, tea, and hourglass on table at Café De Ginza
Café de Ginza — Tokyo, Japan

March 2014, it was a cold afternoon in Tokyo; My wife (Kate) and I felt like tea. We popped into a small café nearby called Café de Ginza.

As soon as we stepped inside, we felt the warmth and smelled the cakery mixed with the coffee beans. Unlike Sydney, the Japanese café was quieter, which we loved.

The enthusiastic receptionist came out to say hi and took us to the table. Kate swiftly ordered a couple of cakes and tea to energetically sunshine our day.

Although most cakery and beverages are similar to most cafés in Sydney, some minor detail make a significant difference here.

Café de Ginza serves their tea with a tiny hourglass.

The café somewhat has a vintage vibe. I thought the hourglass was just a gimmick decoration. But I couldn’t stop myself from asking what is it for.

The waitress smiled and explained that each type of tea needed a different amount of time to rest in hot water to get the best taste of it.

She flipped the hourglass and told us the tea would be ready when the sand from the upper bulb went all the way down.

That was eye-opening in my ears. Howcome the most straightforward thing like this was so wonderful.

“The detail touches people’s hearts and creates an emotion that captures the memories”

I’m sure if you use your rational brain, you will say this is just a bluff. The tea will taste the same whenever you have it, just a temperature difference. You could be right.

But that tiny hourglass makes a substantial difference to the emotional brain. In other words, I feel different with the same tea.

Suppose you don’t have a very sensitive tongue. English breakfast tea will taste like English breakfast tea, whether it boils by London or Tokyo water.

But do you remember anything about the tea you had last year?

This story perfectly reflects how detail can do in a user experience design. The detail touches people’s hearts and creates an emotion that captures the memories.

As Product Designer, we often team up with PMs Engineers or Data Scientists who are clever on the rational brain and make the product up and running.

I think this is an excellent playground for our practice. Design is a perfect tool for injecting emotions into rationality and touching people sentiments.

Without the feeling, we create another app that’s just like another app, and the world already has lots of that type of apps.

I don’t need just another tea-give me some things that will make a mark in my memory.

Details in detail.

Originally published at




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