HIX/THINX: Can neuroaesthetics elevate hotel design?

Ahead of a Clerkenwell Design Week panel moderated by HIX director Joel Butler, we take a look at what this emergent field of study means for the hospitality market.

Science and art are often positioned as binary opposites. Indeed, the former deals in cold hard facts, procedural consistency and objective results, whereas the latter orbits something less tangible – its process and product based on instinct and feeling and thus defined via a process of subjective personal interpretation. 

In the past there has been overlap, with scientific function and methodology used to produce art. Likewise, the psychological study of creativity has come to form a key column in our understanding of the brain. But nevertheless, it is rare for these two opposing charges to find themselves united under a single banner. 

However, the emergence of a field of study called ‘neuroaesthetics’ has seen this change. A relatively recent experimental science, neuroaesthetics combines science and art with a view to – according to neurology professor Anjan Chatterjee – understand the “perception, production, and response to art, as well as interactions with objects and scenes that evoke an intense feeling.”

From colour, to shape, to visual texture to brightness to size, each element of an artwork will generate a wide spectrum of emotions and points of resonance within each audience member, but neuroaesthetics seeks to better understand where the consistencies in these reactions occur, and if certain genres, classifications and styles of art can be leveraged to extract specific reactions in fields from marketing to healthcare to education, and now, to hotel interior design.

The latter should come as no surprise; hospitality has come to increasingly operate at the intersection of science and art. Consider how many operators have ventured into the sciences of sleep, sustainability and data analysis, and so too how often these closely monitored processes combine with interior design to contribute to an overall guest experience. 

Experience, after all, is perhaps the neuroaesthetic bridging point between science and art – the moment at which design becomes specifically engineered to engender a desired effect – be that calm, excitement, awe or inspiration. It is not uncommon for designers to calculate what kind of mood a certain colour will generate, nor is it unheard of for operators and owners to outsource or validate design decisions based on data. However, as the field of neuroaesthetics develops further, stakeholders will be presented with a dilemma. 

Shown objective scientific proof that a certain design element or decision will result in the optimal degree of a desired response, would every operator in the market with access to such data not prefer this design to any alternatives? In this scenario, the human element of design and art will largely be negated, and whilst there remains no doubt that this would be a powerful tool, there is an equal chance that this would bottleneck and restrict the amount of design variety across the market.

So, how will this emergent (and, it should be noted, still controversial) field of quantified artistic endeavours evolve further? and how then might it interact with hotel design? 

Come along to Muuto London Space at Klaco House on 24 May from 10:30am-11:30am to discover the future of neuroaesthetics, and find out how our brains explain space with a discussion moderated by HIX Director Joel Butler and featuring experts including:

Julian Sharpe – Principal Director – TP Bennett
Christopher Crawford – Senior Associate-Studio Director – Gensler
Dr. Rebecca Chamberlain – Lecturer Neuroaesthetics, Goldsmiths University of London
Line Brockmann Juhl – Chief Marketing Officer – Muuto

Interested in attending? RSVP to showroomlondon@muuto.com and claim your place.