This month a new café opened in Harajuku. Artless Craft Tea & Coffee is located on a quiet backstreet – a road so small most cars can’t fit down – just a 10 min walk from Harajuku Station. It’s operated by Artless, the Tokyo-based design and branding agency headed by Shun Kawakami. The space, which became fully operational on May 1, represents an interesting trend: design agencies opening their own cafes.
At Artless Craft Tea & Coffee you’ll find a sparsely decorated minimal space with an emphasis on hand-roasted tea and single origin coffee. Exposed plywood primarily covers the interior, which serves as a stark contrast to the slick, dark counter. At the edge of the counter is a cast-iron kettle that’s used to heat water. It’s almost like stepping into a chashitsu (Japanese tea room). Artless-branded tea and coffee also serve as minimal decorations.
Design studios opening cafes is a trend we started to notice last year. The experimental design office gift_lab opened a café and gallery space in the up-and-coming Kiyosumi Shirakawa district with the objective of facilitating a space where they can interact with people and idea. Last year the ubiquitous design firm Nendo also opened a café space called connel, located in the same building as their design studio. Their founder Oki Sato reportedly begins his day there every morning (when he’s in Tokyo).
Artless Craft Tea & Coffee operates with a similar objective: a space where the design firm can step out from behind their creations to interact with consumers. By doing so, they’re able to extend their brand to those who they may have not reached simply through creative direction or design.