Foot on the Accelerator

David Morris, Creative Director at Studio Proof...

Studio Proof

We are told we live in an “acceleration culture”, sponsored by technology and digital social networks. Apparently, 18 – 33 year olds check their smart phones on average 85 times a day. We expect to have an answer to any question wherever we are at any time via our devices, we don’t just eat on the go, we book hotels on the go and then use their digital concierge app to organise champagne for the room and dinner for the evening. All this, possibly while we are walking – and apparently we are walking faster than 10 years ago.

Inevitably, this has resulted in a counter culture of slow living and most of us like to escape into this when we can – a few days far from the madding crowd, connecting with nature, maybe even a digital detox holiday. The truth though is that most of us cannot, and some of us would not like to, live in the slow lane for too long. Our tribe, Performers, least of all.

Performers are highly driven to acquire and experience a lot in life and to do this, they work hard. They are motivated to learn, gain qualifications and develop discerning judgement about the finer things in life. They have a global mind set, strive to be accomplished and are both brand literate and design aware. They ask a great deal of the people and the environments around them, but then, they also ask a lot of themselves.

To begin to start designing for this tribe, we created our own Performer, Jo Anderson, likely to be aged between her late thirties to mid-fifties, married, possibly with a child or two. However, what defines Jo is her career. She is a leading forensic scientist in demand by Police forces around Europe. At the moment we meet her, she is unwinding in her hotel room after an international conference (where she has probably spoken), and waiting for her husband to join her for the weekend. As part of maintaining their relationship ‘bleisure’ stopovers like this are often tucked in between intense work and family commitments.

Transferring from Copenhagen that afternoon with a helicopter connection to the isolated dunes of Skagen, Jo is absorbing herself as thoroughly in the beauty of the seascape view through her window as she did in the cut and thrust of business just a few hours earlier. She is sipping a glass of expensive 2009 Pauillac because she respects excellence and because she understands the small margins between good and great.

So, our question was, how do you design a hotel guestroom for a Jo Andersen?  Sleep is a highly valued commodity so quiet and comfort are paramount needs. She doesn’t want gimmicks or trinkets or clutter. She does want the new but only if it delivers and, if not, she’ll happily take yesterday’s ‘classic’. Maybe add a little unexpected surprise? The visual treat of a sculptural bespoke lamp designed by Irish sculptress Niamh Barry will suffice, commissioned exclusively for the hotel. But by and large, Jo takes the “stuff” around her for granted and really only notices it if it is not high quality and if it is not working as it should.

Instead, it is the elements that the guest doesn’t see or know about that make the difference to Jo. A well-thought through exercise before the design process has started, for example, which considers the type of staying guest and public areas visitor (not necessarily one and the same anymore) who will be using the hotel. Architects, designers and all other members of the project team brought in at an early stage to understand the brief, which is informed by the earlier exercise, and to contribute their specialist insights before mistakes become set and impossible to rectify. A realistic and well-managed budget that means there is still the money to commission the Niamh Barry piece towards the end of the project.

It is also about designers challenging themselves to make every line a decision. How can the room be better planned to create the illusion of more space? How to give the guest more connection with the view outside? Perhaps, how to avoid the typical corridor along the bathroom box which usually greets hotel guests.   

Finally, it’s about the detail because that’s what makes guests such as Jo comfortable, from the way a tap turns, a hinge closes a draw and an interior light  shines when she opens the wardrobe door.