By Kathleen C. Ngiam
While casually flipping through a technology-focused magazine this weekend, I chanced on an article about the newest trend in Silicon Valley.
It discussed how the art of mindfulness is allowing us to harness our ideas, improve business practices, and connect to our world and the people around us. This concept of connectivity is also a significant trend in the design world. Our emotional connections to people and places are more important to our design thinking than ever before.
Earlier this month, I had the good fortune to participate in HD magazine’s inaugural NextGen Forum in Chicago. As an invitation-only conference at the end of NeoCon week, you may have missed it, so I wanted to highlight some of the topics and activities that stood out for me.
Designed to engage and inspire the next generation of hospitality design leaders who will be creating experiences for Millennials and beyond, the NextGen Forum was a blend of design inspiration and real-world practice. As we listened to the presenters and mingled with fellow designers, architects, hospitality business leaders, and vendors, we were keenly aware that a new era of designers are moving into the industry spotlight.
The evening before the formal NextGen program began, we kicked off the festivities with an extraordinary cocktail hour on the Roof of the Wit. The view of the Chicago skyline lit by ominous tornado-bent clouds and lighting storms provided a dramatic setting and instant conversation starter. I think watching such a wild and vivid show of nature inspired us for the rest of the event.
Greeted by our HD hosts the next day, we jumpstarted our morning by welcoming, the talented Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh, whose visceral, thought-provoking Value of Play presentation had us wide awake in the first five minutes.
Best known for her inspired advertising campaigns, she illustrated the investigative process of play and she reminded us “we all need to make time for play [at work]….and have the confidence to fail.” We were so absorbed in her mesmerizing videos that the room fell utterly silent for few minutes, which I must admit, was highly unusual for a large group of boisterous professionals.
Tom Savigar of the Future Laboratory followed and confirmed our trend-tuition with his presentation of Shape of Dreams to Come. I was most interested in Tom’s comments on the “Rise of the Female Consumer” and of his “5 Super Trends.” The “Kinetic Nature” trend—with its “connection to science with a desire for transcendental, lingering experiences”—was the stand out topic that really made us excited.
He used the example of MOMA’s magical new “Rain Room” installation by England’s Random International. It’s a large all-black room that rains. Hidden sensors stop the rain when people or objects get in the way and when the obstacle moves, the rain resumes. In a word, fascinating.
A lively distinguished panel of hotel industry leaders followed. Then, after a quick lunch and some networking with speakers, we heard from this year’s HD Wave of the Future Honorees.
I admit that it’s one thing to see someone’s work in a magazine but it’s another to hear them speak about their projects and the challenges they overcame. The speakers were so passionate about their efforts to engage the community, define end-user experience, and refurbish and craft authentic spaces that connect to and reflect local culture—while still keeping on schedule and on budget.
Their passion spoke volumes. The real shift taking place in our industry is not just focused on using new innovations and technologies. It’s also centered on connecting to individuals and communities through design concepts that engage them in more meaningful ways.
Our day ended with a stellar group of owners and executives who shared their business insights and philosophies during the Roundtable discussions. Then we were off to dinner for a final network opportunity and a wrap up of the day’s events. All and all the HD NextGen Forum was well worth the trip, and now I’m wondering what revealing topics HD Americas will hold.
Thank you, HD, for creating this thought-provoking event that made me excited to be a part of this creative industry.
Kathleen Ngiam is the director of hospitality design at CORE in Washington, DC.