Editorial: Customization Is the New Constant

by Robert Nieminen

One of the first things that struck me about this month’s cover story on the new Hotel Encanto in Acapulco, Mexico, was that the dramatic effect achieved by the lighting design makes the property so eye-catching.

The 44-suite boutique hotel was purposefully designed by architect Miguel Aragones in a white, monochromatic color scheme to allow guests to “paint” their rooms with light (depending on their mood) thanks to special LED lighting controls in each guestroom. Public spaces are also bathed in color using a spectrum of tints that dramatically alters the ambience, especially at night.

While the lighting scheme is certainly vivid, what I found even more notable was the fact that guests can customize their own experience to suit their tastes and preferences—a trend that has been emerging in hospitality, retail and even corporate office environments. During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., for example, the hotel I stayed in offered a menu of pillow choices—six in total—none of which appeared to be any better than the other, so I opted for the existing pillows on the bed (which met my bedding standards just fine, thank you very much). At another hotel in New York City, I noticed a selection of music CDs next to the in-room stereo system that featured a mix of songs customized specifically for the hotel that varied from an ambient, “chill-out” vibe, to a more upbeat, techno/trance selection—depending on whether I was in for the night or getting ready for a night out, I presume. Heck, even some airlines nowadays offer in-flight satellite TV for every passenger and a customizable playlist of MP3s to make the connection from Atlanta to Chicago a little less mundane.

These little touches don’t seem like much on the surface, but this trend of customization is permeating every facet of our daily lives thanks to emerging technology that gives us choices as to how and when we want to send and receive information; how we prefer to communicate; and how we work and play. In the office environment, the emerging “knowledge” workforce is not only drawn to, but also expects flexibility in their work settings, and is transforming age-old paradigms about how, when and where people are expected to work. According to Steelcase’s Workplace Satisfaction Survey, an ongoing global analysis of knowledge worker attitudes on work issues, the key elements of a high-performance work place are changing “faster than a 19-year-old’s Facebook page,” thanks to technology that enables them to text, Twitter and multi-task throughout the day—be it in the office, from home or on the road. The survey identified focusing, collaborating, learning, and socializing as the four modes that a work environment must support in order to accommodate these employees.

In this ever-changing landscape, media companies such as ours are faced with the challenge of maintaining high-quality journalism standards for print content, while simultaneously catering to the new models of information sharing that are often delivered in quick bites via e-newsletters and social networking sites. (We invite you to find us on Facebook and Twitter, and join our online community to share and discuss issues that are pertinent to you and your work experiences.) As a result, we have expanded our content delivery vehicles to diversify the ways in which crucial design industry information published by Interiors & Sources can be received—the latest of which is our new digital edition (launching simultaneously with this April issue).

In this new format, you can expect to find the same, award-winning content you would in print, but with enhancements that will make the experience of reading the magazine much more dynamic. For example, the digital version of our Design Collaborative article on KI’s Arissa Collection will offer an embedded case study video about this seating product. Other enhancements include additional pages of photography for the Hotel Encanto cover story project, as well as a slide show of extra images for this month’s photo essay on the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Barcelona. Finally, you will find supplementary news and information in our Noteworthy section, which is exclusive to our digital edition this month.

I hope that as you read our digital issue, you will not only let us know what you think about the new format, but that you also consider this an invitation to become a partner with us in sharing new projects, ideas and strategies for advancing the profession of design. We look forward to hearing from you, wherever you choose to connect with us.