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Leader Board

(January / February 2017) posted on Thu Feb 09, 2017

Meet three influencers who have masterminded new design directions for everything from wish-list hostels to bucket-list five-stars.

By Oriana Lerner

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Designers are more than artists—they’re also managers, collaborators, branding whizzes and diplomats. With impeccable style, of course. The industry powerhouses profiled here let you in on the strategies that enable them to write their own stylebooks, and how they keep the business side of their practices on the same innovative course.

It's always a wild night (or day) in Generator Rome. The beast is tamed by simple seating. Photo: Mans Berg Photography

Matthew Davis, founding principal, DesignAgency

Matthew Davis. Photo: Courtesy of DesignAgency

Hostel environments don’t scare Matthew Davis. DesignAgency's sector-defining work on the Generator flag, spanning locations across Europe and with a Miami outpost in the works, brought an iconoclastic but grown-up take on “cheap and cheerful” budget stays that magnetize guests as much for their strong design narratives and quirky one-off pieces as for their price point.

It’s not a surprise, then, that Davis readily offers a roadmap for developing brand DNA and keeping it vital across multiple locales. “It’s a balance of three factors,” he says. “First, continuity: the foundation and core elements and experiences that define the brand essence; second, responsiveness: allowing for elements and experiences to change, staying current and allowing part of the hotel/hostel to be in this state of flux; and third, disruptiveness: looking outside of a segment or even industry provides a form of intangible insight that often allows us to model what is coming next.”

Generator Rome
The ceiling becomes an art piece, while the art over the bed replaces a headboard. The switch-up highlights the strong verticals of the architecture. Photo: Mans Berg Photography

So far, so good. But, it’s all too easy for firms to get typecast by their own success, especially in the context of a co-created brand. So, Davis and his team developed a check-and-balance work process to keep fresh perspectives flowing on each new project (recent ones have included a steakhouse and a restaurant in a high-end department store). They are also broadening their geographic horizons with the opening of a Los Angeles office.


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