The role design will play in the hospitality industry


by Cheryl S. Durst

First impressions count. In job interviews, blind dates, and now more than ever, in the design of a hospitality space. Sure, the service is great, and the valet is convenient, but how does a hotel or restaurant patron feel inside the built environment? Does the space accommodate visitors? Inspire them? Make them feel secure and considered? Does this first impression create a desire to return?

Guests today have higher expectations about what a hospitality space is supposed to look like and how it should serve them. No longer will visitors settle for cookie-cutter. Now they anticipate an experience that is as bespoke as it is adaptable.

Across all aspects of the hospitality industry, the distinctive needs of guests are being carefully considered in the design and function of space. And with the additional need for adaptability, sustainability, and a clear focus on wellness, access, and equity, design in 2019 will play a critical role in how the hospitality industry can better accommodate both customers and staff and make the individual patron feel heard.

Immersive Environments

Design will be instrumental in creating holistic, multi-sensory hospitality experiences for guests that go far beyond just sight and sound. Taste, touch, and smell will be factored in when developing multiple touchpoints, from the lobby to the chef’s table, allowing guests to feel completely immersed in the space. Tactility and materiality will be carefully considered in the creation of unique, touchable surfaces and the repurposing of familiar textures in a departure from cold, unapproachable sleekness. After all, design isn’t just seen in the everyday; it can, and should, be felt.

Transparency and Locality

Today’s mindful and sustainable guests are often searching for a genuine voice within our over-marketed world. They want to buy locally, think globally, and the lemon in that water better be certified organic. To meet these desires, design in 2019 and beyond will support the hospitality industry in creating a more transparent and sincere approach to accommodations and branding. Hospitality spaces will use meaningful design to connect to local communities in distinct ways, from utilizing local foods, scents, and materials, to surveying the members of the local communities on what they want to see in a space.

Health and Wellness

“Wellness” is a radical and necessary buzzword often used to describe the commercial design standards we should be employing daily. Now, with key tools like the WELL Building Standard, we are beginning to understand how light, sound, air, and even indoor plants, affect our happiness, productivity, and overall health. For the hospitality industry, understanding how both guests and employees are affected by the built environment is critical. Hospitality design will aim to make the interior environment more accessible for a broader range of people, with an increased focus on both physical and mental health, and more adaptable to changing climates, air quality, and weather conditions.


A significant factor in designing for an individualized experience is reflecting on how guests will share information about your brand with others. Social media is integral to our everyday lives and it’s safe to say that aptly designed spaces are becoming truly “Instagrammable” and share-worthy experiences. It is no longer frivolous to consider that yes, a good deal of selfies will be taken in your restaurant’s bathroom and yes, design can accommodate that moment.

Design is Everywhere

The hospitality experience doesn’t simply begin and end inside of a hospitality space and neither should its design. As we move into 2019, strategic design choices will be reflected in all aspects of an organization’s brand, from its website to its menus and everything in between. To ensure context and relevance, design excellence should be adapted into every function from social-media marketing to house-made wine bottle labels. Because in this “experience” economy, every impression counts.


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