(design) Experience Preferred…

I am of a seasoned (design) “experience”-level where sub par “tea” drinking is no longer acceptable.  In commercial/hospitality design, serving tea is about delivering a “safe” product (design standard).  As designers, we are about delivering a bourbon-drinking experience where tea may be served, but is not advertised on the specialty cocktail menu (because it is universally understood as common and because the customer already knows you carry it).  Instead of designing for brands, we must remember we are ultimately designing for the market.  Our focus (from Design Conception to project opening) is not the brand, but the people interacting with the brand.  It is about our customer.

Customer (tea definition): a person or organization that buys goods or services from a store or business

Customer (bourbon definition): a person or thing of a specified kind that one has to deal with

So how do you “deal” with them?

Would you “deal” with this person…

(let’s call her girl A)

… differently than you would “deal” with this person?

(let’s call her girl B)

Would you present a different design concept to girl A than you would present to girl B? Why?  Because you assume girl A is a bourbon drinker and girl B drinks tea (because she is already drinking tea)?  Does girl A appear (ostensibly) to be a bigger risk taker?  Would you be more motivated to WOW her with bourbon?  Would you even think of offering her tea?  Would you not offer bourbon to girl b because your impression is she is too prude to drink it?  What if I told you girl B is a UFC ring girl by night and girl A is actively serving in the Peace Corps?  Does this change your “position”?

The point here is that we need to design for the customer… whoever that customer may be.  Don’t make assumptions.  Do your research.  “Insert” yourself.  Become part of the “experience” so you can understand the user.  Get up on that (insert adjective) second floor mezzanine in the middle of the night and take notes.  Watch.  Listen.  Age yourself like bourbon.  Learn the market base and design a unique experience just for them.  Make them important, not common.

Once you understand the customer, you can think like them and you can (more importantly) design for them.  What we do as design professionals (that DIY Suzie does not) is cultivate design concept evolution, not cookie cutting.  Sure, we have a “style,” but it adapts to the environment, it changes for the consumer.  This is part of the challenge, part of the thrill.  This is how we grow our portfolios and challenge our creativity.  This is how we gain experience and trust ourselves.  This is how we become valuable.


So, how, in the case of my Bourbon Restaurant Refurbishment (project chosen specifically to drive puns home) was bourbon equalized to attract the “tea” drinker?

This could have been a recipe for disaster, but I think I was able to find common ground via the principles and design approaches that have gotten us to this point (if you are still reading).  You tell me… (it is still open after all :-))

Wolfgang Puck Steak

wolfgang puck_Page_04

Before you “bottom’s up” tonight cheers to this, “Don’t assume you know your customer… and certainly don’t underestimate her punch!”


Photo credits:

Photo #1 pinterest

Photo #2 - Girl A tattooed-women

Photo #3 - Girl B career-intelligence

Photo #4 flickr







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