Confessions of a Hotel Design and Branding Expert

Denise Korn, Principal of Korn Design, on what hotels mean to people today.

Photograph by PJ Couture

Historically, people in Boston went to hotels for philanthropy fundraisers. Properties become aligned with different events, and the hotel scene was very locked and loaded. But the whole culture has shifted. People are now talking about experience design and human-centered design. Hotels mean different things to people now. The decision tree around choosing a hotel is not separated by vacation, or work, or travel; it’s all blended together into lifestyle choices. People are looking for something that makes them feel good and is relevant to their universe.

Although brand loyalty does exist, all the brands have had to up the ante because there are so many more choices today. There’s a lot of room for innovation—look what Target did for mass-market consumer goods! That’s where I would say that design plays a really important role. But it’s not just the design, and it’s not just storytelling; it has to all fit together. In my opinion, you can apply that methodology to anything from a limited-service property to a five-star property, and everything in between.

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