The talent for creating “good design” is the ability to blend artistic expression, engineering marvel and ingenuity — a culmination of one’s gestalt that leads to new ideas.
When I was a child I thought it would be quite fun to be a train engineer and drive the big black steam locomotives down the tracks — although being a policeman or a robber sounded good too! My father was a civil engineer but created artwork in his free time; certainly these interests were also influential upon my life’s direction. As an adult, I’m torn between my passions for engineering and art. Of course, now my time is not spent doing either of them — I’m really more in design management. But both things would be interesting to pursue again — for example, by fixing up an old car or motorcycle in my garage, or through painting — and for me, good design contains a significant dose of these two factors.
Fuel for my inspirational drive also comes from the ability to work on international projects and meet such an interesting variety of people. Visiting diverse cultures helps me spot new trends and be exposed to different ways of thinking, so that these can be interwoven with the requirements of design briefs. Naturally, though, each job is different and has its own set of influences. The owner’s requirements, the brand’s standards, the target market, the hotel’s locale, the history of the building and its style of architecture … all combine in an abundant pool of potential inspirations upon which our design team can draw. The trick is to synthesise these diverse ideas into a harmonious whole so that the final scheme feels like it effortlessly belongs in its environment — and thus is a “good” hotel design.
Of course people’s expectations develop over time. Not only have technological capabilities increased, but also the degree to which design is valued. The instantaneous delivery of news and trends around the world means that we, as designers, need to adapt more quickly than ever. Expectations today are different than they were 30 years ago; in fact, they’ve changed quite a bit even in the last 10 years.
Gorenje seating designed by Karim Rashid (Photo: Randy Krisp)
A designer whom I think balances this influx of influences really well is Karim Rashid — not so much because I like what he creates, but because by merging the abundant possibilities of technology with creative ideas, he has his finger on the pulse of what is happening today. Makes me wonder what he wanted to be as a child …
So as a designer that is a product of his past, am I a “train conductor” driving design forward, or a policeman enforcing design rules? No.
Am I a bit like a “robber,” taking inspiration from my experiences and environment to create my own version of good design? Absolutely — it’s impossible not to be one!
However I realize that I am not the judge of what constitutes good design — I’m just an interpreter of a flurry of global influences. Clearly hotel design is not a piece of art that only expresses the thoughts and feelings of an artist — the design must be used and accepted by the people for whom it was created. Good design has unexpected, unusual and informal solutions that are authentic to a hotel’s location and relevant to guests’ lifestyles. And if it’s successful, other designers might even borrow from it for one of their inspirations!