The obvious questions we had for Lynn and Brand Bureau were around the hospitality industry amidst COVID. How has the pandemic impacted brick-and-mortar businesses? How are you approaching a constantly changing landscape with your clients? How do you design safe spaces? Where does messaging fit into everything?
From an agency perspective, much of Brand Bureau’s current client work is long-lead projects. “Those projects that are underway have been maintained as planned,” Lynn said.
However, what has changed (and continues to change) is, well, everything.
“What's challenging for owners, operators, and clients, and, subsequently, for designers, is that the rules keep changing and it's the unpredictability of the short term fixes, which may look entirely different in six months or a year or two years,” Lynn said. “It’s so hard to gauge how physical spaces will need to change from a requirement or legal perspective but also from a consumer behavior perspective.”
Hospitality clients are stuck in a quandary as many are hesitant to make major investments in change as we don’t know what the circumstances will be in a few months’ time. So, Brand Bureau has adopted an agile approach to help its clients figure out more flexible and moveable solutions right now.
“The clients who have existing brick and mortar businesses are trying to look at it week by week and explore light investments they can make to dip their toes into the idea of re-opening,” Lynn said. To navigate these unknowns, Brand Bureau helps clients arrive at answers through different sets of questions.
“Let's think about why we were going out in the first place,” Lynn said. She articulates three reasons: People go out for the offering (I can’t make this myself), for a change of scenery (it’s not my couch), and for the social aspect (meeting others within a space). For the agency’s strategy work, it’s all about thinking about these reasons -- the “why” -- in a different way right now.
While this undoubtedly includes things like sanitation practices and well-designed partitions, it’s really about the three drivers. “Let’s flip the switch and ask, what do people need in this experience, what were they looking for previously and how can we replicate or translate it,” Lynn said.
Brand Bureau has several potential clients in the travel industry, including inquiries around airport lounges and how to rethink what those spaces look and feel like, and what the food and beverage options may be. “They’re starting to ask these questions. How can we answer those concerns where design plays such an important role in how you communicate safety without sacrificing hospitality,” Lynn said.