“We live immersed in images and there is no image that has not been carefully designed by someone for a specific purpose. It is certainly not a new phenomenon: the history of the world is marked by the use of visual images and their project. Modernity has only brought out the figure of their author, that is, the designer and the configuration of their cultural field in a real discipline, that of visual design. […] Although the general public ignored it (and still continue to ignore it) visual design took charge of the entire image system on the basis of which we daily orient ourselves in the world, we understand and construct our imagination. Even money has an “image” designed by the visual designer.” Maurizio Vitta
Like an interior designer who designs the furniture of a room, of a product designer who draws a seat or a glass, of a textile designer who takes care of the design of a tablecloth or the covering for the head of a bed, the visual designer, or graphic designer, designs (often in synergy with other professional figures) everything you need to communicate to the host and, more generally, to the world within which the hotel reality moves.
But yet, when I started working in the hotel industry, I found myself quite displaced by noting how even exclusive and structured realities had little awareness of the importance of a global vision of their communication, I found myself quite displaced by noting how even exclusive and structured realities had little awareness of the importance of a global vision of their communication, both from the point of view of contents, and mostly, from the point of view of “form” and how, the result was often a corpus of heterogeneous and incoherent materials, fruit of the mere urgency of the moment and not of a carefully designed preliminary project.
But if, as one of the greatest sociologists of the 21st century claimed, the Canadian Marshall McLuhan, “the medium is the message”, that is, the medium is itself contained, this means that what we say is as important as the way we say it and the “vehicles” through which we say it. .
A roughly laid out menu, a confusing and unstructured signage, a brochure without a concept, they communicate. They communicate poor care of their image, they communicate little expense in terms of attention to the needs of the guest, they communicate approximation, they do not remain impressed in the mind and contribute to have a negative impact in terms of guest experience.
Graphic communication plays a fundamental role in assessing the strength of a brand.
It is certainly not different for hotels and restaurants, even more so today when competition is not played exclusively on the price level, but on the offer of a rewarding holistic experience that the visitor imagines to experience.
Hence the importance of visual design.
To design, indeed, comes from the Latin PRO-JECTARE “throw forward”: it is an anticipation of the future through a corpus of rules that define the outlines of one’s own representation so that the communicative object can be 1) beautiful and aesthetically pleasing; 2) helpful; but most of all 3) significant.
These are the three dimensions that come into play in every visual project.
1) VISCERAL ASPECT
It concerns the appearance of an artifact and the first impressions and sensations that arouses at the level of pre-conscience and pre-thought (in fact it acts in the automatic brain part).
The visceral aspect concerns the concept of aesthetics, which is a completely sensory fact (the aesthetic word, indeed, derives from the Greek aisthêtikòs, sensitive/able to feel). Despite the millennial debate on beauty is always open, and one wonders again if it is an objective or subjective fact, what we agree with is that beauty is the engine of evolution and guarantees the survival of the different species.
Just think of the intense colors of the fruit: the taste and perfumes so sweet are a guarantee of survival for both animals that, attracted, they feed on it, and for the fruits themselves, whose seeds will be scattered and will give life to new plants. The same is true for human beings. Have we ever wondered why the women’s backside has this “design” so soft and protruding? In the evolutionary process, before man learns to mate in a horizontal position, the act took place on the back. The woman’s backside then acted as an indical signal (and as an index, its characteristics referred to its function). This has provided for the conservation and evolution of our species.
Beauty wins because it is reassuring, because it comforts us and attracts us. The sense of “beauty”, as a selection criterion it is the catalyst of the motor of evolution and determines the perpetuation of life. Aesthetic beauty is essential for survival since, working on the visceral plane, it helps us to choose. The same happens with the design: what is aesthetically pleasing is perceived as “better”, the person is happier and more relaxed and tends not to concentrate on the defects or difficulties he encounters using the object.
The principles that underlie visceral design are predetermined and shared between the various cultures, they do not fluctuate over time (they are not very sensitive to fashions) and they are completely based on sensual messages (hearing, view, smell, touch, taste). Forms count here, colors, the pleasantness to the touch.
2) BEHAVIORAL ASPECT
It is based on use, on the experience gained through the use of a specific artifact.
When we talk about behavioral aspect, during design it is important to pay attention to four fundamental components:
d. Physical sensation
a. The functionality
For decades it has been the main measure of “good design”. If the functions of a communicative artifact are inadequate or of little interest, even the message that it brings will appear of little value.
As support for the service, the graphic object must above all fulfill its communicative function therefore it must be clear, understandable and effective in a short time, since the time of the guest is a precious commodity, which you need to take great care of.
It is the ease with which the user understands how the artifact works and makes it operate in the best possible way..
The important thing is to provide the user with a product for which you have to spend a little energy and with which you feel immediately at ease. A wine list structured in a manner that is too complex or for professionals only, it will create discomfort in the uneducated host to the oenological world and will therefore end up making a choice according to other parameters, for example the price.
The usability also concerns the study of all those features that make a product accessible to people with disabilities or to people with special needs and deficits (e.g. we think about a menu and the reading needs of a target of a certain age clientele: it is important to take this into account during the design process when choosing typefaces, of the body and of the color). The “universal design” takes care of this and claims that a design designed also for those who have difficulty, it only increases quality for everyone.
d. Even the physical sensation is an indispensable component during use.
Surfaces and building systems must be calibrated to prevent the user from experiencing ambiguous or unpleasant sensations during use. We think of a menu and the choice of an inappropriate card that is stain the guest footprints. It will give an idea of poor cleaning and will be unpleasant.
3) REFLECTIVE ASPECT
i Finally, the reflective aspect is linked to the message, to the meaning of a visual support based on our memories and our experiences, but above all to the image we have of ourselves. It intervenes below the surface of things and derives from the interpretation and the ratiocination of the observer.
This is the most vulnerable level to fluctuations in fashion, to the differences between the various cultures and to the experiences that each of us has collected during our life.
The reflective component is able to dominate all the other components so sometimes we happen to appreciate dissonant music, a bittersweet food or a work of art that is not understood by the majority. All this derives from a rationalization and an intellectualization of the “object”, to which a story is linked.
The affection resides in this last level. We become attached to things (as well as to places) because they have an emotional component, for what they represent in our existence, because they cause us positive attitudes, they remind us of pleasant moments or have been significant in less pleasant moments or, simply, because they represent our identity and make us feel part of a group.
This is why the emotional side of design can prove to be the most critical in determining the success of a visual artifact over practical elements.
A designer must know these dynamics in order to make good design.
“No wind is favorable for the sailor who does not know which port he wants to land.” (Seneca)
Naturally, in the construction of a visual project, all starts from a profound knowledge of one’s own identity. History, goals, well-fixed values and a precise and authentic promise that the hotel undertakes to guarantee to the guest.
Consistency -in visual terms – with these assumptions is fundamental, so the guest does not feel betrayed. A representation of oneself that does not contradict itself, indeed, reassures because it reinforces the sense of belonging to a universe of values that the guest feels part of or asks to be part of. The task of the graphics is to incorporate these assumptions and make them visible and homogeneous, , from the brand to the menus, from the signage to the laundry module. The detail is the field on which we play the game of differentiation and success.
As we said, the evaluation of hotel services by the guest is based more on subjective criteria, connected to lived experiences, to proven sensations and promises of future experiences. The guest wants to feel satisfied in emotional and psychological needs, live memorable experiences and be recognized as a unique and unrepeatable entity. For this reason, personalization is another tool that can be inserted in the communication field to leverage on the guest’s involvement. A collateral that, for example, can be customized with the guest’s name, will be a welcome souvenir that will help to strengthen the bond of trust and esteem towards the structure.
If then the experience does not work only on the aesthetic level, but it also incorporates an educational dimension that pushes curiosity, it increases the guest, because it represents a moment of confrontation and knowledge. Think of a map that suggests the places and activities around the hotel and explains its history: it is a tool that can give a starting point for new experiences on the territory.
Finally, thesurprise. Being able to capture the guest’s attention through the unexpected and to create an indelible memory is a guarantee of an emotional bond that can become enduring
For this reason, it is necessary to leverage on the emotion and exceed the expectations of our interlocutors through storytelling and play. Stories involve, it’s the stories that make things interesting, the stories awaken our childish appearance and allow the message to be remembered more easily than an objective and impartial communication.
Finally, we talk about durability, which is also the true purpose of visual design: to guarantee the structure a stability of image that saves it from the logic of today’s bulimic consumption, that makes it last in time, that contributes to its immortality. A challenge to which the graphic designer collaborates in support of those who, with their service, work tirelessly every day to keep that promise of “happiness” made to the guest.
Graduated in Communication Design at the Politecnico di Milano with a project on the theme of the “Happiness Representation”, Paola Slongo has worked in the Faculty of Design as a culprit of the subject and in some publications on the subject of packaging. After the experience in the agency, she decides to take the road of the freelancer designer. She has collaborated and collaborates with some of the most important hotels and restaurants, including Hotel Il Pellicano, La Posta Vecchia Hotel, Borgo San Felice, Villa d’Este, Villa La Massa, Hotel Tyrol and Mandarin Oriental, Milan – for which she edited naming and graphic image of the Seta Restaurant by Antonio Guida ** Michelin and Mandarin Bar. She also carried out the restyling project of the entire F&B graphic system of the Belmond Italia group hotels (Hotel Cipriani, Grand Hotel Timeo, Villa Sant’Andrea, Hotel Caruso, Hotel Splendido in Portofino and Villa San Michele).