Be Kind. I feel so strongly that in today’s political and global economic environment, we need to be better to our neighbors. It can start with one person — with you. By being nice to a stranger, an authentic compliment, a moment of caring, a text of encouragement, and simple smile. It can be dramatically contagious! As we are on this earth one time, we owe it to ourselves and others to make the most of our contributions. So today, choose to be positive and know that every interaction is a chance to learn and give back. You can’t always choose your circumstances, but you surely can choose your reaction. Make a difference, live the “no, not me; you first” attitude.
I had the pleasure to interview Beth Campbell, CEO of the global interior architecture firm Wilson Associates. With more than 25 years of experience in global design, Beth is a formidable leader with an exceptional ability to navigate extremely complex scenarios. A LEED-certified, registered architect, Campbell has a robust portfolio of high-profile projects. Most recently, she was Executive Vice President and Head of Design for Westfield Corporation, where she successfully orchestrated an organizational transformation for the corporation’s internal design team. Prior to Westfield, she spent 16 years at Gensler, serving as Managing Partner in Las Vegas, and Global Account Director in San Francisco. Campbell earned a Bachelor of Architecture degree from Kent State University and a Master of Business Administration degree from Golden Gate University, in addition to being LEED certified and a registered architect. She is currently based in Wilson Associates’ Los Angeles office.
Thank you so much for joining us Beth! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
When I was eight years old, I knew I wanted to be in the architecture and interior design field. My parents — as with all parents in the ’70s — spent Saturday nights at friends’ houses for card club or a cocktail party. Of course, the kids were shuttled along and promptly placed in the yard or basement to play (Mid-West / East Coasters get it — we all had finished basements tricked out as a game room). Every night, when I would come home s, I would wait for my parents to fall asleep and would then draw the host’s house — and promptly redraw it, with a better layout. A few months into this pattern, I came home to find a drafting table with T-Square and a table lamp. My dad had one requirement: “please just wait until your mother is asleep, we don’t want her worrying you’re not getting enough sleep!”
About a year later my father arranged for me to stop by a local architect’s office on the way home from school. It turns out, he studied under Frank Lloyd Wright and had an abundance of FLW books — all of which I worked my way through over the coming months. I was hooked.
I’ve had the great fortune to work with some amazing clients over my architectural career. With these relationships, I’ve been able to express my passion for design excellence around the globe. With my extreme desire to learn and grow, I have built a skill set of global business, design and executive coaching that have served me very well in honing my craft. Bringing to bear my passion for design, my appreciation for global cultures, and my in-depth industry knowledge will allow us to continue to build on the legacy of Wilson Associates.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
When I first started in the industry, I would frequently be sent to the job site for project reports, so I could learn and observe first hand how we construct buildings. I would wear pencil skirts, and with my runner’s legs it caused a stir with the contractors on site. They paid me little to no respect when inquiring about the construction progress. Luckily for me there was a seasoned superintendent on the job, and he set the crew straight. I quickly learned to dress the part — you can look good, just dress appropriately for the job at hand. And more importantly, I learned the valuable lesson of developing allies with those who are the decision makers.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Wilson Associates’ strong legacy can be summed up in one word: PEOPLE. The founder’s focus centered on the talent, the clients, our partners and our communities. We are reinvigorating this focus and ensuring all passion and energy is put into bolstering our connections in all we do.
Wilson has a great signature brand in hospitality, but there are still opportunities to work on complementary atelier brands such as Blueplate Studios (Wilson’s F&B focused studio) and Atelier Tristan Auer (its Paris-based, boutique and lifestyle luxury property focused studio). That also makes it easier to give talent more scope for growth and evolution. We need to look at brands and sub-brands within the Wilson family to allow the company to work in different ways. Blueplate Studios, for example, is a holistic offer. They can get advice for chefs from Paris and help consult on uniforms, in addition to designing the space.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
We should be focused on ‘work life integration’ rather than ‘work life balance’. The word balance implies there is a distinct answer that is right; when in fact, like pistons, the obligations and opportunities in life are constantly in motion. With this precept in mind, the appropriate answer to health, wellbeing and success at work can be found in recognizing that there are seasons when you must work more and seasons when you need to focus more on your personal being. Curating and owning your energy and focus expenditure is the key to success.
To truly strike this integration with success, you must surround yourself with people whom you trust to benefit the overall system at work and people who support your mission — at work and at home. As I feel I am always a work in progress, I would rate my efforts at a B+ over the past few months. I am currently
working to bolster my supporting team and work while continuing to infuse energy towards my personal life.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’m so fortunate that over the span of my career I have had some amazing people to guide and mentor me. I’ve had opportunity to work with incredible leaders around the globe, all of whom have added to the person I am today. The person with the deepest business impact is Art Gensler, hands down. He represents authenticity, passion and caring. Art stands for client-first thinking, and then gathers people around him in an innovative setting to do great design. I learned that if you focus on the people first, not the bottom line, this will drive joy and success in all you do.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
It is an amazing time to be a designer. There are so many influencers to our design solutions, and we foresee the following to be the key areas where the deepest impact will be felt.
• Technology — data and analytics are creating highly informed buyers, savvy businesses and distinct advantages toward building products and methods. Rapid innovation and artificial Intelligence will drive deep changes to how end users experience our spaces.
• WELL Buildings — the intersection of human health and real estate are creating a dynamic approach to how we curate the built environment. The opportunity can be found in the creation of spaces that actively contribute to human health, performance and well-being by blending innovation in technology, health, science and design. These build upon the common practices of sustainable design; we are now venturing into arenas of enhanced health from the built environments we experience.
• Frictionless Expectations — The ‘Amazon Effect’ has dramatically changed the way we shop. However, the Amazon Effect has spilled over into many areas of our lives, to the point that many people expect to find little to no friction in their daily interactions. Whether buying dish soap, ordering room service at a hotel, or buying a new car — we all want ease, speed and quality in every aspect of our experiences.
All these trends drive design solutions with agile infrastructure and require forward-thinking, curious designers who are passionate about enhancing guest engagement at every level.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
Both business and leisure guests are looking for engagement in their travels. They are looking for local and authentic experiences — whether it’s inside or outside a hotel. It’s our job as designers to fully embrace the cultural nuances of a surrounding location into the hospitality interior spaces. Travelers are eager for cultural experiences that are interactive and all-encompassing. Designers are incorporating different elements of culture into each and every design detail such as the branding, graphic design, lighting, FF&E, and artwork in a property. Food and beverage spaces should not be an afterthought, they should be environments that stir social and emotional experiences.
There are so many drivers today in our global economy, and just as many for our industry. We are watching demographic shifts, clean technologies, over-tourism and rapid innovation disrupt global development activities. We see that Asia Pacific and the Middle East will continue to lead the development and project growth models for the foreseeable future.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
Not only are we designing amazing spaces, we’re creating experiences that are engaging as well. Engagement is key, not only for guests, but for our clients, the designers, and everyone involved. Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. We want to be involved with something connected to our heart.
Today, we are finding extreme focus on wellbeing and general health. The near-term future will provide a deeper embrace of the intersection between people and the built environment. The opportunity can be found in the creation of spaces that actively contribute to human health, performance, and well-being by blending innovation in technology, health, science, and design. These build upon the common practices of sustainable design; we are now venturing into arenas of enhanced health from the built environments we experience.
Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?
The Smartphone has changed the way designers approach public and private space. Everybody expects frictionless engagement. Amazon trained us to be part of the intersection of tech and personal engagement. Time is a commodity. Intriguingly, though, one thing that isn’t changing is the need for a concierge or personal greeter. High touch is still very much a valid service philosophy, but guests now want to have it on their terms.
We’re evolving the ways that spaces are designed so as to meet guests’ ever-changing needs for engagement and flexibility. Lobbies won’t likely change drastically, but certain elements are evolving. Front desks (in hotels that have them) will be different and more streamlined. Opulent luxury will be more about high touch and high engagement. Luxury won’t be about travertine, necessarily. Instead, it will be about situationally appropriate elements such as gracious lighting, wide-open spaces at a beach hotel or sconces in small spaces. That’s the essence of the design trend I see: more flexibility of choice — how
you choose to engage, different people, different ages; spaces that ebb and flow all day.
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
As I travel for a living, I am fortunate to experience vast and varied locales. I find such inspiration from experiencing new people, new cultures and discovering local architecture. Any trip that allows me to explore and discover new things, whether that’s in wine country or at the beach. Regardless of the country or city, it would have to have a complimentary integration with nature.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to be a catalyst for change and impact to our communities through the built environment. But most important to me is the opportunity to influence others’ lives. I realize this both in the larger setting of global corporate goals and locally in my everyday choices. Whether it be global strategies or personal coaching, I strive to listen, help others and truly connect.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
Be Kind. I feel so strongly in today’s political and global economic environment, we need to be better to our neighbors. It can start with one person — with you. By being nice to a stranger, an authentic compliment, a moment of caring, a text of encouragement, and simple smile. It can be dramatically contagious! As we are on this earth one time, we owe it to ourselves and others to make the most of our contributions. So today, choose to be positive and know that every interaction is a chance to learn and give back. You can’t always choose your circumstances, but you surely can choose your reaction. Make a difference, live the “no, not me; you first” attitude.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow Wilson Associates on Instagram at Wilson Associates
And on LinkedIn at Wilson Associates