Uncovering what an impactful experience would mean to guests is a crucial part of AD Associates’ design process
This article was first published in the Autumn/Winter 2019 issue of International Cruise & Ferry Review. All information was correct at the time of printing, but may since have changed.
According to Chris Finch, founder and CEO of experiential and spatial design agency AD Associates, those brands that deliver immersive experiences are more likely to engage guests in long-lasting relationships. “These experiences can be differentiated in ways that are both meaningful and measurable,” he says. “This can only be achieved by going beyond aesthetics and tapping into design potential.”
Finch says that experiential and spatial design is especially poignant in the cruise industry because it is devoted to human interaction and service. “Spatial design is everything involved in the creation of a space,” he explains. “The fusion of architecture and interiors, furniture, fixtures and fittings as well as objects, colours, sound and lighting, providing a multifaceted, layered effect. Successful spatial design entices people in and allows guests to feel comfortable; creating spaces that are informed by taste and style, flow, and practicality.”
Experiential design is about making a constructive impact on the guest experience journey and leaving a meaningful impression that generates positive word-of-mouth. “All projects begin with us getting to know the client’s brand and their target audience, then uncovering what a successful, exciting and impactful experience would mean to that audience. This sets the spatial and experiential design narrative,” says David McCarthy, marine projects and communications director at AD Associates.
“Cruising provides guests with a different experience to land-based hospitality because of the nature of the journey, the destinations you can reach on one trip, and the fact that they are at at sea for long periods of time,” McCarthy says. “Ensuring guests enjoy their, sometimes extensive, periods onboard is key for success. This can be achieved through providing distinctive experiences that vary from one venue to the next, and in ways that could generate incremental revenue for owners.”
Experiential design can be anything from the consideration of a guest’s first few moments onboard, right up to the last, and how to make this seamless and stress-free. “It’s about making touchpoints along the journey as frictionless as possible. In other instances, it could be ensuring every space onboard fulfils its enrichment potential for guests,” McCarthy explains. “Fundamentally, it takes layering as we know it in spatial design and gives it a whole new meaning. For example; operationally and logistically, everything needs to be thought out. We harness the right people from entertainment, food and beverage, lighting and so on. We want the result to be a truly authentic experience. And we have to start thinking about the guest experience journey right from the very beginning.”
As well as this considered layering, a characteristic of AD Associates’ design philosophy is crafting effective design narratives through storytelling. “Using emotive cues and suitably curated spatial elements we can ensure the appropriate, desired ‘energy’ is realised for a space,” Finch says. “Every aspect of the design must be considered, with great attention to design details and foreseeing what the guests’ interactions will be to create a poignant and memorable experience. Fundamentally this ‘energy’ must resonate with the experience you are trying to create, be relevant for the target audience, and the environment in which it is set.”
Finch is quick to point out that experiential design doesn’t mean overdesign. “Nor do we have to incorporate technology,” he says. “People are becoming more conscious of their screen time because of the strong focus on wellbeing. Instead, they want a more physical experience. Sometimes it’s the subtle changes and upgrades behind the scenes which are more impactful, ensuring the human element is still very much part of the hospitality experience, and making the biggest impact on guests.”
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