Mathew Sanders /

The McKittrick Hotel

Checking into the McKittrick Hotel casts the illusion of stepping from modern-day New York to something between a 1930s speakeasy and a Scottish manor. The five story complex is the set for Sleep No More, an interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth where instead of being a seated audience you’re invited to explore the hotel and follow actors as you please. The only rules that you can’t speak and you must wear a mask at all times.

During the performance I came across a wardrobe that opened into a narrow passage. Feeling my way in darkness and hoping for some Narnian shortcut I quickly hit a dead end with cracks of light in the wall suggesting a possible door to exit.

I couldn’t find anything to pull and pushing didn’t help either. As a last chance I reached my hand to the ceiling and made contact with something. Pulling down I felt a small snap and the something come loose in the hand. Being from New Zealand, where as children we’re conditioned that littering is a shameful crime (along with not poking fun at Australians whenever possible), I shoved it into my back pocket feeling a bit ashamed for breaking something and continued on with the night.

Emptying my pockets the next day I saw for the first time what I’d accidentally collected. It was a small simple locket hung with red cotton. On the inside was a tiny roll of torn paper with the passage Luke 1:31.

Passage from King James Bible (Luke 1:31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

It wasn’t until then that I realised that I hadn’t broken something, but simply played my part of a role in a consciously designed experience, although one that few would probably stumble upon.

It started me thinking about the importance of details in design. Sometimes as a product designer my approach to design can be too clinical. Its easy to group people into statistical cohorts and make decisions that optimise for the majority. This approach can make competent designs, but designing with that spirit leaves little room for chances to delight individuals.

Perhaps a choice you make in your design will only be appreciated or discovered by a few people. Instead of thinking that the return on investment isn’t worth it, think of the delight of the individual even if in reality that may only be a handful people. I have a feeing that it will make your overall design better too.