This post is definitely going to stir up a hornets nest as no one like to be told they are wrong. But I am always happy to listen to different perspectives and really that is the intention of this post. To offer an alternative perspective.
When it comes to the design of your Co-living product who knows best? other landlords? a letting agent? Or what about the worlds most successful designers ever? I’d rather ignore the crowd and go to the very best and seek their advice…So here are four of my favourite quotes about design from guys who are at the absolute top of the design game.
Good Design isn’t about how something looks, it’s mostly how it works that really matters – Steve jobs
If you analyse the function of an object, it’s form usually becomes obvious – Ferdinand Porsche
Home is the heart of life, Home is where we feel at ease, where we belong – Sir Terence Conran
Good Design is Honest – Dieter Rams
I have taken these quotes very much to heart when designing interiors, which has led me to the conclusion that most landlords simply miss the point when it comes to the design of their product.
Over this past month Co-Living champions ‘The Collective’ called in the receivers after their 500 room co-living behemoth failed to attract enough customers to make the project viable, why? well it boils down to the 4 quotes mentioned above. 1. It looked great, but the design did not work for the users of the product. 2, The designers did not understand the function of the product and followed an incorrect design brief, 3: The development did not feel like Home… it felt more like an institution. and 4: The Collective’s strap line was ‘Live like you have never lived before’. The customer expectations of their product was very high but the product did not deliver on its promise.
Ask most landlords and letting agents about how you should design an HMO, or Co-living development they will most likely say 1: put in en-suites as you’ll be able to charge the highest rents 2: Its not your home so don’t do anything too adventurous with the decor and 3: Don’t worry too much about the living space as tenants don’t tent to use it.
Ask the consumer of the product and they will usually say they need 1: Social interaction 2: Good value as they are choosing shared accommodation to save a bit of money 3: It’s got to be a bit funky/different 4: It’s got to look modern yet homely. (these are the words of the consumer, not the landlord or agent)
In most industries, most companies either copy someone else or in a very small number of cases they try to innovate. If you just copy industry norms, there’s obviously no thought involved, it’s the easy route, but you’ll probably find you’ve missed crucial parts of the design that are unseen. As Steve Jobs said, it’s how it works, not how it looks that really matters, so simply copying how something looks can be a big mistake. usually because you end up with a poorly functioning product.
When companies try to innovate, again, many will simply look at the ‘standard’ make it bigger, cheaper or just spend more money on exactly the same elements, again, going on looks, not function. This is where The Collective went wrong. Basically they made the concept larger, the rooms smaller, but spent more on the visual stuff, completely missing the customer brief. Which is mainly “I want a place I can call home”…Not, I want tiny bedroom but a huge multiplex gym and a games area with a table football machine that I share with 40 other people.
The problem with the current industry norm is that en-suites cost a fortune, they often compromise budgets so far, that all the other functional elements like comfort, storage that reduces clutter, colour, quality furnishings that allow the user to relax, living rooms with decent TV’s with movies that the residents can relax and enjoy the company of others are missing due to budget constraints. The other new norm of larger commercial to residential project 9+bedrooms, all money out, momentum investing blah blah, is, it’s the furthest thing from a home you can put onto the housing market. It may work on paper, but the customer isn’t interested in your strategy, they just want a nice comfortable place they can call home.
So when it comes to good interior design take a leaf out of Steve Job’s book, stop looking at what everyone else is doing and think about your customer for a second. Is what you are creating something you yourself would enjoy using. Is the bed you are choosing comfortable enough for you to sleep in, is the living room you are creating somewhere you would like to spend time in. How will the design make you feel if you were to live in it. If you are thinking of putting in en-suites, how will that effect your budget for all the other important elements that the customer really needs.
And finally let’s look at the supreme design Guru Dieter Rams and his quote Good Design is Honest. here is what he meant: Good design is honest. It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept. So, if you are going to brand your property product as Co-living, do you really understand what that entails, are you simply branding your product and blindly following an industry norm or have you taken the time to think about your design, its impact on those using it and how it will make your customers feel when they use it.