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Checking Out: Liz Muller

The vp of creative and global design for Starbucks finds inspiration in travel, splitting her time between Seattle and her home city of Amsterdam




Why choose a career in design?
My father was a fine cabinetmaker and architect and my mother was in fashion design. I think it’s in my DNA.

Your childhood must have been a whirl of style and design.
We always focused on the positioning of everything from furniture to making sure everything was perfectly [placed]. Even setting the dinner table was a joy for me, and still is. It all matters.

But what if you hadn’t chosen this career path. What would you do?
I can’t imagine my life without being in design; it’s my passion. In another life, I would love to pursue a dance career. 

So what brought you to Starbucks?
After working for clients around the world with my own firm [in South Africa], I was drawn to Starbucks for the opportunity to do something unique. The company’s global footprint allows a chance to design, innovate and create experiences for customers from diverse cultures and lifestyles, while allowing me to constantly study customer preferences and lifestyle trends to ensure we’re designing relevant, unique spaces. Who wouldn’t want that? It’s a dream!

What are some key elements of designing spaces for the food and beverage industry?
We strive to create spaces for our customers to gather and connect over coffee, while also designing for our baristas and the space where they create coffee, customize drinks and serve delicious food.

The Starbucks Reserve Roastery and Tasting Room, which VMSD featured in its April issue, is part of your portfolio. What were some of your priorities when tackling this enormous task?
I focused on creating a space that [would] allow customers to discover Starbucks Reserve coffee in a way like never before. Designing the [project] elevated the craftsmanship and celebrated creativity and attention to detail.


If you could inhabit a space by any designer, present or past, whose would it be and why?
I have two. Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Jules Wabbes – both create beautiful designs with timeless style and amazing function.

OK, we have to ask: How do you take your coffee?
I love Starbucks Sumatra as a freshly brewed coffee press or as a pour-over.

Globe Trotter

Muller’s extensive global design portfolio includes Starbucks stores in Mumbai, India; Zürich and Beijing.

You’re from Amsterdam – and you live there part time – what do you miss about it when you’re here?
I miss Amsterdam’s canals, bikes, fresh-market shopping, strong café culture and free spirits.

Other than Starbucks, can you share some inspiring retail concepts from your travels?
Merci in Paris. Hérmes in Paris: The large store repurposed an old swimming pool. It’s brilliantly executed – a true wow. Aesop: great concepts around the world, unique use of materials and a great experience.




MasterClass: ‘Re-Sparkling’ Retail: Using Store Design to Build Trust, Faith and Brand Loyalty

HOW CAN WE EMPOWER and inspire senior leaders to see design as an investment for future retail growth? This session, led by retail design expert Ian Johnston from Quinine Design, explores how physical stores remain unmatched in the ability to build trust, faith, and loyalty with your customers, ultimately driving shareholder value.

Presented by:
Ian Johnston
Founder and Creative Director, Quinine Design

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