Guest Column - May 2010
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Design Corner

Your Cognitive Dissonance Is Showing

By Mark Schmitz

here are times in our lives when external things just don't make sense. The animal rights activist in the leather jacket eating a Gyro sandwich, the moose mascot walking around Sea World or Ronald McDonald at the Renascence Fair. These are disconnected experiences trying to somehow connect to us in a relevant way. The world is filled with "that was almost a great idea."

How do you avoid two totally different brand directions under the same roof of your facility? Start by imagining a singular emotional outcome to everything your company says or does. When you work to shorten your "we want to be everything to everybody" list, it becomes clear what to do. Successful owners see the future and can define their true connection to a unique guest experience. If your branded emotional outcome is to "inspire" your guests, then everything you do, say, design and bake in your ovens has to have a subliminal level of inspiration.

How to Create Harmony

Tips to consider when integrating your story into your space:

1. Visual Consistency: Avoid the "tradeshow effect." That's where everything looks like a different design firm was in charge. Big mistake. Make a plan that will last a long time and stick to the plan.

2. Color Palette: Color speaks on many levels. A specialist can develop your color palette to communicate your core emotional outcomes.

3. Keep It Simple: Don't confuse anyone. We're already confused before we walk in your door. Give us some clarity. Don't try so hard. It will show if you do.

4. Material Usage: Be consistent in how you use materials to show your story. A disconnect between signage materials is a disconnect to brand consistency. Be smart with this one.

5. Graphic Design: Graphic design prowess is very important in the age of visual sophistication. We all expect a visually dynamic environment wherever we go. Don't disappoint the audience. A branding design firm can lead you past the free "clip art" environment.

Environmental brand designers are responsible for the "storytelling" portions of the facility experience. They coordinate and infuse your unique culture into your facility.

"Culture design" is as important as HVAC and carpet. It is the art of "place making" to show your customers what is truly unique about your recreational facility. A good designer can help infuse your story into the DNA of the building. There's nothing worse than hanging your mission statement on the wall after you open. The wall should be the mission statement. That means everything in your building should be integrated to speak with one common visual voice.