Shaping atmosphere

At JOI-Design, we have adopted the phrase “shaping atmosphere” as our mantra because this idea is at the heart of everything we do as hospitality designers. We, along with our industry colleagues, are aiming to shape just exactly the right “atmosphere” that will not only meet but exceed the expectations of the guests who use the spaces.

To do so, it’s essential to recognize that hospitality design is a permanent compromise between functionality, housekeeping/maintenance issues, and creating a stylish environment for guests.

Over the last 10 years there has been a massive shift from prioritizing functionality and ease of maintenance towards placing a greater emphasis upon “design.” Hoteliers have woken up to the realization that design is one of the most important tools in their marketing kit for attracting guests — and that functionality and maintenance are issues that can be resolved without sacrificing style. Although of course a responsible designer still avoids the use of white carpeting in a restaurant!

To fully satisfy these expectations, we need to understand what kinds of guests the property wishes to attract, what marketing and business angles the hotel will adopt and what types of amenities would be anticipated from this specific product in this location. Next we must interpret how these objectives can be translated into an atmosphere, and then envision how this desired atmosphere could be transferred into the given space.

At the same time, a designer has to have the insight — let’s call it intuition — to come up with something innovative, but not too unexpected, so guests are intrigued by delightful surprises but also feel comfortable and nurtured. 

Hospitality design does not need loud and flashy new design ideas. Guest in hotels, bars, restaurants and spas want to feel safe and secure — and maybe even cozy — since usually these are places where people go to relax, recover and savor a gastronomy, wine or spa experience.

These atmospheres are quite a contrast from those of a trade-fair stand or a stylish retail boutique, which are designed to be particularly dramatic in order to capture people’s attention for only a few moments rather than encourage them to linger for hours.

And naturally the interior design concept of an urban bar must be different from the atmosphere of a Swiss Alpine “raclette stuebli,” just as a Ritz-Carlton hotel needs a different style than an Ibis property.

Yet in all these scenarios, functionality and ease of maintenance cannot be forgotten. So when one digs deeper, it turns out this idea of “shaping atmosphere” is a rather complex job description for hospitality design!