Color, flooring, lighting - they’re all tactical details of a space. But a well-designed space needs to uniquely weave those elements together in order to tell the authentic story of a brand. When Richardson Design works with a client, they’re more interested in getting the client’s story and understanding their “why” before the conversation ever turns to paint color and furnishings. We asked Founder + Chief Creative Officer Scott Richardson about interior design, industry disruptors, why he went into business 25 years ago, and how Richardson Design goes about “Creating the Places Where You Want to Be”.
“Design is in everything we engage with, whether we’re aware of it or not. Start with the individual as an example— the clothes you wear, where you live, the car you drive, the music you listen to — they all come together to create your own personal brand,” says Richardson. “In a commercial space, it’s more about facilitating the appropriate experience as intended. Building that experience will consider the customer along every path of their journey with a brand; how they’re led, how they’re communicated with, how they feel, how they’re treated and most importantly how the space can facilitate it all.”
“We can figure out how to do what our client wants all day long, but what’s more interesting to me is why. Why does the company, brand, or individual want to do that? I like working with companies who see needs that aren’t being met, sees ways to improve something, or a company that listens to its customers’ needs and identifies ways to enhance the experience for them. It leads to really big ideas and some really interesting concepts.”
Uncovering the authentic story and genuine passion behind a concept or business is something Richardson feels is critical to its success or failure. “In a culture that’s oversaturated with social media and is barraged with images and opinions 24/7, authenticity wins. It surfaces and bubbles to the top. Authenticity is today’s great differentiator. For Richardson Design, one of the things we pride ourselves on is our ability to listen to our clients and understand their vision. Our projects don’t all look the same. They all reflect each client's personality and objective, and I think that’s hugely authentic and genuine to who we are as a firm.”
The entrepreneurial spirit started with Richardson when he left a job working for a large, international design firm to open Richardson Design 25 years ago. He wanted to work in Cleveland and didn’t see opportunities to do the type of work he wanted to do.
“To me, that’s the entrepreneurial spirit — if you can’t find it, then you create it yourself.” Scott Richardson
One of the biggest changes Richardson has seen in his 25 years in business is how customer demands are driving design decisions and how that has led to major disruptions in certain industries. “To me, there’s a huge shift in people saying, ‘No, it doesn’t have to feel like this, look like this or be like this.’ Look at the hospitality and travel industry. Twenty-five years ago, you had household brands like Ritz-Carlton, Hilton, Hyatt, and Red Roof Inn. Now each of those brands have, or are part of, a complex collection of multiple sub-brands that cater to specific clientele, based on different customer demands from varying demographic groups. First, these brands differentiated themselves to varying clientele through unique amenities, decor, and interior design. Then, AirBNB comes along and turns the industry on its head which is forcing hoteliers to think completely different about the spaces they create. Now the major hoteliers of the world are scrambling to be even more unique through design strategies built around one-off, hyper-local experiences, all of which have been driven by customer demand.”
Richardson sees another large industry disruptor on the horizon. “The medical marijuana/cannabis industry is a really interesting one to watch,” says Richardson. “We’re working on several projects in this market, and what’s really exciting to me is that it’s an industry full of entrepreneurs.”
For Richardson, the cannabis industry is a game-changer. “It’s an agri-tech industry. The perception is rapidly changing from marijuana being a vice product to being a health and wellness product. This is no longer a fringe industry catering to the tie-dye and VW crowd. Today’s cannabis consumer ranges from millennials to 70 year olds, and they each want to connect with the products and their benefits on varying levels. It’s exciting to watch and explore our part in it. We want to help those entrepreneurs and companies build a great experience between the product and their customers."
“Ultimately, I’m always looking at the good, the bad, and the ugly. Some people are fine with having an adequate experience. A lot of people want something more. When we’re designing a space, we want that space to be authentic, tell an authentic story, be perfectly executed, and exceed everyone’s expectations.”