It’s always interesting (and a job perk) to get to see the inner workings of our industry. So, last week, I attended IIDA’s New York Chapter Unexpected Collaborations forum. From food to fitness to technology projects, the message was that the unexpected is what drives guest experience.
Panelists included Jeffrey Beers, founder and CEO of Jeffrey Beers International with Ron Morissette, vice president development and networks for Realisations; Glen Coben, president, Glen & Company with Adam Glickman, head of EVEN Hotels and director of brand experience, lifestyle brands at IHG; and Dino Sanchez, creative director of Brand Bureau (formerly with Frog Design) with Matthew Goodrich, chief creative officer at AvroKO.
Great design is a collaborative process after all, and the discussion offered plentiful takeaways and lessons learned. Here’s more on those successful partnerships.
Collaborators: Realisations, a technology and innovation company, and Jeffrey Beers International
Project: Renaissance New York Midtown Hotel
Process: Design had to engage the Millennial guest by being both intimate and unexpected. Realisations couldn’t just put an image in a screen. Instead, the company integrated technology in a sophisticated and unobtrusive way. Guests entering the hotel interact with digital displays of Manhattan projected along the corridor. The display responds to human movement, resulting in a living, interactive hotel. “It’s unusual and tells a story,” says Morrisette
Takeaways: “Collaboration with others on top of their game in hospitality is paramount,” says Beers. It’s key,” and it helps engage the guest.
Collaborators: Glen & Company and EVEN Hotels
Project: EVEN Hotels New York – Times Square South
Brief: EVEN Hotels provided an opportunity for Glickman and IHG to take the wellness concept to a holistic, personal level. With the help of Coben, the brand’s Times Square property proves that good design can twist the original vision but still make it feel familiar.
Process: Coben channeled the ethos and essence of EVEN hotels. He looked at the suburban models of the brand and found he couldn’t replicate that in an urban setting. He didn’t want to lose what makes EVEN stand out, so he worked with his team to tweak that original concept to fit a Manhattan audience.
Takeaways: Designing a hotel in Manhattan can be frustrating. “There’s a level of patience I learned from Adam. I’ve learned to take a deep breath,” says Coben. For Glickman, he learned that by playing with EVEN’s format, it can offer a fresh voice and perception that “will help the brand grow.”
Collaborators: AvroKO and Frog Design
Project: A brewery concept for Anheuser-Busch InBev
Challenges: AvroKO and Frog Design did not go into the project as partners; it was an arranged marriage (by their client), they quipped. Each firm had to reframe their concept and ideas in order to work together. However, it ultimately ended up being a fruitful partnership; Sanchez left Frog Design and now works for AvroKO’s Brand Bureau.
Process: The experience provided a learning curve for both firms. At AvroKO the process is to start with a small idea and expand, while Frog starts high up and works its way down. “What we had to learn as collaborators was what’s the best process we can create together,” says Goodrich.
Takeaways: From AvroKO, Sanchez learned that “the biggest moves and strokes are not always the most innovative.” Because AvroKO works cautiously and meticulously—focusing on the small details first—and Frog was more willing to try out ideas in a demo period, Goodrich says that alternative way of creating has provided insight to shake up the process.