You can’t talk about design, if you’re not (at the very least) talking about technology’s implicit impact on the way we look at design. What drives good design is not only about what photos pop up on social media sites—though that doesn’t hurt—but about sharing that experience via new channels, according to panelists at IIDA New York’s “Customizing the Guest Experience in Hospitality” event held last week and co-moderated by Nancy Jackson, co-chair of the Hospitality Forum and president of Architectural Systems Inc.
“Experience matters. It matters more than stuff,” says Barry Richards, a co-moderator, IIDA New York chapter’s Hospitality Forum co-chair, and principal and studio leader at Rockwell Group. Indeed, during the session, one thing was clear: Social media, technology, and design are cozier than ever. Here is a look at more things we learned:
- Guests want an experience unique to them, and designers have to create that emotional connection. “It’s interesting to see what Instagram moments come up,” says Kimberly Miller, CEO and principal of Design Duncan Miller Ullmann. “Social media is a component of how you get in someone’s head.” Adds vice president of lifestyle brands for Marriott International Toni Stoeckl: Social media “is a way to engage and bring to life the guest experience.”
- Designers create scenes, narratives, evoke emotion, but are also “content creators,” says Stoeckl, with the new luxury defined as “shared experiences.”
- In this day and age, the guest stay doesn’t start at the front desk; the visual journey begins at booking. Designers and hoteliers have to create something that embodies the hotel when it comes up in a search, says Miller.
- While guests are at the hotel, however, they expect to be “alone in a crowd,” explains Miller. Room sizes are smaller, desks are being eliminated, and the lobby is becoming the social interaction space, she adds.
- Every designer wants to create an authentic experience. “To lead is to listen,” says Adam Rolston, principal and managing director of Incorporated Architecture & Design. “Listen to the customer. Each hotel is site-specific” so know how to exploit that hotel’s specialty. Also, bring in the locals. They’re the ones who can brand a hotel as authentic to a neighborhood.
- Good hotel design should be about a sense of discovery, including surprise elements that “leave guests wanting more,” says Miller.
- And finally, “quality is the new luxury,” Rolston adds.