Design for Nerds

Modern chain hotels have become design beacons for the latest in hip, chic and stylish flare. Their lobbies are adorned with progressive art installations. Their restaurants feature the latest trends and crazes in high-end food experience. Their bars are some of the swankest nightclubs in the city. However, is all this panache missing the point and even alienating some patrons?
We are currently experiencing the rise in a new segment of power players on a global business scene: the nerd. Lost are the days of wedgies and name-calling; the nerd has now taken a prominent place near the top of the social ladder. Champions of software in a digital age, fan-boy gurus in an era of comic culture, entrepreneurial rebels in a time where big business is giving way to the little guy – we are part way through a shift where the nerd is becoming the cool kid.
Yet while many industries have embraced this new four-eyed segment, the travel and tourism industry still feels to be largely clinging to a past of letterman jackets and wet-towel whips. Where are the ping-pong tables and bean-bag chairs? Where is the gaming room and fully-integrated, hotel room Xbox system? Where is the hotel social networking site to help me find a dinner guest? Where are the interactive bar tables? And perhaps most importantly, where is my robot butler?
A handful of hotels have cropped up in recent years that are capitalizing on this opportunity. Hotel Tomo in San Francisco features anime-inspired décor and deluxe gaming suites with 6ft screens. The Pod Hotel in New York has been nicknamed the “Facebook Hotel” for creating an environment of sharing and connecting with other guests. The Capsule Inn in Tokyo is designed around fully-integrated sleeping modules that leave every needed device – TV, radio, clock, etc – accessible from the supine position in bed.

However, the Marriotts, Hiltons and Sheratons of the world continue to churn out clones of themselves designed around appealing to their vision of the typical traveller – a segment which is shrinking over time and may never have existed as they were perceived in the first place. Typical is becoming atypical, people’s tastes are evolving and hotel patrons are hungry for unique experiences. Who has the guts to step up and try cooking something new?