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Always Be Engaging: Curiosity Cues & Glimmers in Experience Design

The hospitality & travel industry puts heavy emphasis on visuals and aesthetics, and for good reason. What we see during our stays and our experiences triggers some sort of reaction and action. Even in our day to day life, our environments are constantly shaping our behaviors. Take this basic example that one study found: homeowners who had their electrical meter in their main hallway used 30% less energy than their neighbors. Why? Because their neighbors' meter was hidden away in the basement.

Sensory touchpoints are guideposts along a guest’s journey. It's obvious that what we SEE (and of course smell, hear, touch, taste) shapes our behavior.⁠ So what happens when an experience is beautifully designed - bespoke furnishings, stunning textiles, camera-ready setups… but has very little in terms of purposeful sensory cues that guide our actions?

Enter Glimmers & Curiosity Cues. In psychology, glimmers are the opposite of triggers. Triggers are things in our environment that stir up angst, frustration, even a sense of danger. Triggers send us into a state of fight, flight, or freeze. Glimmers bring about the opposite! Glimmers bring us a sense of peace, connection, possibility, expansiveness. They restore our nervous system and guide us to a state of joy.

Why so beige? Where's the culture & sense of place?

Curiosity cues (A TSE coined phrase) are similar to glimmers but are more focused on engaging guests’ desires to learn about the local culture. These are sensory touchpoints that are there to get people reflecting and engaging their inquisitive side. After all, 73% of people say that traveling is their go-to outlet to express their curiosity, and more than 90% of people take trips to learn something new.

When we combine glimmers with curiosity cues, we get touchpoints that are culturally relevant AND cater to guests’ wellbeing. Look around at even the most beautiful, luxurious properties and experiences of the world, and you will see these touchpoints are lacking. These environments are often void of sense of place and any sort of sensory elements that engage people on a deeper level. Can’t we have beauty AND engagement? Why should guests have to choose?

When was the last time a lobby offered you a glimmer of hope?

When was the last time a restaurant captivated your curiosity?

When was the last time an outdoor relaxation space told a captivating story?

When was the last time a bedroom provoked a new perspective?

Weaving in the cultural narrative through sensory touchpoints in unexpected ways is of the utmost importance. If I pulled up an image of your space right now, would we be able to point out the glimmers and curiosity cues in the space together? How much time do guests spend looking at their phones and other electronic devices when they could be engaging with their surroundings?

Everywhere you look is an opportunity to tell a story, lift someone up, and shift someone’s perspective. And most importantly, these cues do not have to be insanely costly. There are so many talented artists and creatives out there who have gifts they are eager to share. Or you can find collectibles and memorabilia from your culture for a very modest price. One of my favorite books on this is Collected: Living With The Things You Love. It explores how touchpoints can have real personality, even in the most polished of spaces.

One of my favorite examples is from Maison de la Luz, a property in New Orleans that has a luxurious yet personality-packed aesthetic. Besides each bed is at this New Orleans property is a voodoo-inspired heart box. The Louisiana artist calls these boxes her “valentine to my most favorite city”. Each box contains a hand-painted fortune card and other curiosities that tell a deeper story of the local lore.

There are real treasures inside those heart boxes. Bits and bobs from long ago and far away. The swords are made from antique French biscuit boxes. The fabrics used were all vintage and everything was painstakingly hand stitched. The embroidery was done with antique metal thread that I will never use again because it tangles so badly! The little bundles of golden hair were very generously donated by my young daughter, Ruby! The boxes themselves are lined with old French letters. They are my valentine to my most favorite city and are really and truly so full of love.” – artist Clare Crespo

Wow – can you feel the thoughtfulness coming through here? This touchpoint does a beautiful job evoking a sense of wonder.

At The Storied Experience, we are not interior designers, we are cultural curators. We are not going to come in and design your space. But we will help you weave your narrative throughout your space and create glimmers and curiosity cues across your guest journey. Everything people see, touch, taste, smell, and hear is an opportunity to reinforce your values and purpose in creative and interactive ways.

When we work with our clients, we like to view their property almost as if it were a small cultural museum curating its own unique multi-sensory interactive exhibits. We try to convey a message and evoke certain emotions through unique artifacts, words, symbols, stories, music, textures, flavors, and most importantly, creating an interactive layer to it all. We look at each atmosphere and finding ways to bring some local magic to life! After all, the last thing the world needs right now is overly serious environments that don't encourage play, curiosity, or imagination.


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