The Epiphany Hotel opened in Palo Alto this week next to Stanford University. Joie de Vivre (JDV) Hotels operated the 86-room property, which was completely renovated around how best to weave technology and design into the overall user experience.
JDV partnered with the Stanford-based design consultancy IDEO who promote “design empathy.” The philosophy studies how humans think and act in specific scenarios to design something that solves challenges pertaining to those scenarios.
From the beginning, while brainstorming priorities about how to integrate the hotel into the community, there was an understanding that The Epiphany was going to host a lot of really smart people.
“At JDV we always want to make sure we create that sense of place around the community we’re in,” says GM Lorenz Maurer. “The Epiphany for example is really designed for Palo Alto because we believe people come here to have epiphanies. Be it at Stanford, where the big brains go, or the start up companies who usually hire them.”
For the public work spaces and meeting venues, IDEO recommended ways of rethinking how executives could use the Tinderbox boardroom and Accelerator business center.
Instead of one large table in the boardroom, there’s going to be moveable furniture and a mix of both high-end electronics and traditional tactile business tools. The business center, meanwhile, is centrally located with lots of natural light and a leafy terrace. These are both integrated into the open lobby area also reimagined by IDEO, and both are designed to capitalize on the growing trend of short term meetings for local executives.
“So you have a lot of flexible spaces to express your creativity in many different ways with all kinds of tools, be it analog or digital,” explains Maurer. “It’s about focusing on the right mix of user experiences, and they have to be intuitive.”
That focus on intuitive design extends throughout the hotel. In the guest rooms, IDEO recommended against touch-control dimmers because people are typically unfamiliar with the layout of the rooms, especially in the dark.
They also dissuaded JDV from placing room service menus on the TV screens, requiring a remote with 50 buttons. They said it’s easier to have a well-printed paper menu versus over-complicating the process.
“We looked at how much technology the hotel really needs, and actually the surprising thing that the IDEO tech guys told us, a lot of hotels have too much technology that is not intuitive,” says Maurer. “Good design today is not about the technology, it’s about how people use the technology.”