Megan Reilly | Experience Design & Strategy
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The Narrative by Hilton

3D Design, Environments Design, Product Design, Service Design
 
 
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A new hotel brand concept to better support female solo travelers and their needs

 

GROUP PROJECT | 4 WEEKS

ENVIRONMENTAL DESIGN, 3D DESIGN, SERVICE DESIGN, PRODUCT DESIGN and UX/UI DESIGN

This work was selected as the winner of a live client project for Hilton Hotels.

 
 

 
 

My Role

I collaborated with my entire group to conduct research and shape the strategy. Individually, I developed personas and user journeys, analyzed user needs and translated insights into initial concepts for the experience, and ultimately designed, tested, and rendered the entire space in 3D. I also designed the “digital logbook” product.

 
 

Toolkit

Cinema 4D, Photoshop, Sketch

 
 

 
 
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Hilton reimagines the hotel food & beverage experience.

 
 

The Ask

“When was the last time you hung out in a chain hotel's bar?”

Hilton came to us with a problem: people are choosing to go to hip local hotspots and boutique hotel bars instead of their chain offerings to eat and drink. They asked: how might we create a new, fully-scalable hotel brand to help Hilton compete, grounded in an exceptional F&B experience?

We started with a specific guest type in mind and set out to radically improve the way they experience the hotel F&B space.

 
 
 
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Problem

As I’m typing this, a man is staring at me unrelentingly from across the room at a brewpub.

He won’t stop despite my best attempt at a stern “buzz off” expression. I feel deeply uncomfortable and on edge. Even though he probably means no harm, I’ll leave soon to avoid feeling unsafe.

 
 
 

This is the all-too-common experience of being a woman by herself at a bar.

That same fear is keeping Hilton from connecting with one of the fastest growing travel segments: solo female travelers.

 
 
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“I’d be worried I’d be approached and put in an uncomfortable situation, especially staying at the same hotel.”

- Lindsey

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“I wouldn’t walk into a hotel bar alone.”

- Maria

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“It’s slightly empowering to have a meal or drink by yourself, but I’d feel safer staying in my room.”

- Elle

 
 
Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave.
— Cheryl Strayed, Wild
 
 
 

Opportunity

Help women conquer fear paralysis by empowering them to venture fearlessly.

Through business or leisure, women are chasing their right to explore and impact the world at large. But all too often, fear counteracts the reason they travel in the first place: to experience something new and extraordinary.

Hilton differentiates itself as a brand by delivering quality, consistency, and comfort. But the traditional design of hotel bars and restaurants represent anything but.

 
 
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What role can Hilton play in eliminating fear so that solo female guests can discover more?

 
 

Solution

A sanctuary for solo guests

The Narrative by Hilton is a new hotel brand concept centered around the solo guest’s need to feel inspired, empowered, and at home through any of their ventures– from business to leisure, from group activities to ‘me time.’

Combining space, service, food, and beverage, The Narrative functions to pull fearful travelers out of their hotel rooms, and locals out of the everyday. By creating an inviting space to address the needs of solo female travelers, Hilton creates a community that all guests can benefit from.

 
 
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Design Concept

Inspired by the elevated sensibilities of a library

As archives of diverse stories, libraries evoke inspiration and reflection. They serve as community hubs, but are most often frequented by solo visitors. Within libraries, there’s an established behavioral code. Sleaziness does not abide.

Determined to eliminate the ominous atmosphere of the hotel bar, we adopted the concept of a library (minus the silence and sterility!), combining it with the down-to-earth feel of a living room and the relaxed flexibility of a co-working space. In doing so, we envisioned how The Narrative would make its guests feel: inspired, comfortable, and confident.

 
 
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Targeting the individualist’s mindset

 
 

Who This Serves

Four focus users, one common goal: to break out of everyday routines and experience something new.

Four guests types– each going at it alone– serve as a significant and valuable market segment. For these guests, solo travel is not a simple journey– it’s a means to claim their own freedom and prove something to themselves.

 
 

I. SOLO ADVENTURER

Key Needs/ Opportunities to Deliver: Comfort, Safety, Connection

II. FREQUENT FLIER

Key Needs/ Opportunities to Deliver: Productivity, Ways to Explore

III. “BLEISURE” GUEST

Key Needs/ Opportunities to Deliver: Flexibility, High Quality F&B Experience

IV. NATIVE

Key Needs/ Opportunities to Deliver: Authentic Character, Convenience

 
 
Salt Lake City’s Famous Book Mural

Salt Lake City’s Famous Book Mural

Location

Mid-sized destinations booming with solo travelers

We selected cities for The Narrative that are popular hubs for solo travel, but where we could also be a big fish in a small pond– such as Savannah, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Austin. With more solo travelers each day, we chose Salt Lake City as our launch site.

 
 
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A multifunctional community hub

 
 

Space

Beyond just a food and beverage concept

The Narrative experience comes to life through a café, bar, and a restaurant, all tied together through a central lobby. Here, guests can get things done, try something new, connect with others, or escape to recenter themselves. Maybe they’ll even read a page or two.

 
 
 
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REIMAGINING THE LOBBY

The space was designed to be multifunctional and transitional from day to night, from co-working to cocktails. Modular seating gives people the opportunity to be on their own or enjoy the company of others.

90% of the design would be scalable across all locations, but 10% of textures (including textiles, flora, and fauna) would be specific to the location.

Solves for: Comfort, Flexibility, Authentic Character

 
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PUBLIC & PRIVATE SEATING OPTIONS

A mezzanine above the restaurant maximizes lobby space and gives guests the option of a more secluded experience. The quieter seating area, including discreet booths, makes it easy for guests who aren’t interested in interaction to tuck away.

The round tables throughout the lobby were chosen to evoke openness and eliminate the hierarchy inherent to having heads-of-table.

Solves for: Productivity, Flexibility, Comfort

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Café

A café aimed at providing quick, casual morning fare is located near the front of the space, to attract locals as well as hotel guests on-the-go.

Many hotels don’t offer quality food on the run, so we incorporated grab-and-go food sourced from the restaurant to provide flexible, quality dining options.

Solves for: Flexibility, Convenience, High Quality F&B Experience

 
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THE BAR (OR LACK THEREOF)

The Narrative eliminates the bar in its traditional sense to defeat the powerful threats and fears women feel in relation to this space.

We’ve taken away the seating (although guests can still walk up to order if desired), and instead encourage guests to order drinks from the comfort of any seat they choose. This gives people the opportunity to decide how they want to experience the space– whether that’s being on their own or interacting with others.

Solves for: Safety, Comfort

 
 
 

Service

A user-centered ordering process

Guests can sit where they’re comfortable and have food or drink from the bar’s “casual bites” menu brought directly to them on a bar (read: library) cart. The menu features easy-to-eat, non-messy foods that can be eaten with one hand for busy work-focused guests– as well as cocktails inspired by famous authors for those who’d prefer to play.

 
 
 
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ORDERING & TABLE SHARING

To order, guests can simply fill out a card from their table setting and place it on the stand. For guests who are open to connecting with others, a simple table sharing system (denoted by a “Join Me” table marker) helps facilitate interaction.

Solves for: High-Quality F&B Experience, Convenience, Connection

 
 
 
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BAR CART SERVICE

Food and drink orders from the bar are delivered directly to guests via bar carts so that they can stay comfortable where they are.

As the space transitions from day to night, the bar cart service becomes a truly one-of-a-kind experience: cocktails are shaken right in front of guests, and the expert mixologists are always up to teach a lesson or two.

Solves for: High-Quality F&B Experience, Convenience, Connection, Ways to Explore

 
 
 

Full Service Dining

“Food with a story” allows guests to discover something new

For guests looking to have a more traditional meal, The Narrative features a dining area designed specifically to empower the “table for 1” guests, complete with a full-service menu.

 
 
 
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A warM, PRIVATE SETTING

In contrast to boutique hotels that expose the restaurant within a wide open lobby, the Narrative’s full service restaurant is tucked under the mezzanine to provide a sense of intimacy and shelter.

Warm, low-intensity lighting shifts the mood within this space to one of leisure, intimacy, and relaxation.

Solves for: Comfort

 
 
 
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FLEXIBLE SEATING

Tucked-away, intimate spaces help solo travelers feel comfortable dining by themselves, and flexible communal tables to allow guests to connect with others if they so choose.

Solves for: Flexibility, Comfort, Connection

 
 
 

HIGHLIGHTING CULINARY STORIES

The Narrative’s menu mirrors a library book– complete with a “borrow card”-style specials menu featuring dishes created by local guest chefs. The chef’s notes alongside items on the seasonal mainstay menu help tell their story to guests in a scalable way, taking the pressure off the waitstaff to know the story behind each dish.

Solves for: High Quality F&B Experience, Ways to Explore, Authentic Character

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OPENING UP THE KITCHEN

The restaurant features an open kitchen for guests to observe the culinary storytelling.

Demonstrations and events featuring local guest chefs serve as another touchpoint for guests to learn and experience something new.

Solves for: High Quality F&B Experience, Ways to Explore, Authentic Character

 
 

Experience

Furthering the guest experience through peer-style service and tools for exploration

Peer-style hosts would provide support to all guests, especially for those traveling on their own, from sharing suggestions for exploring, to leading walking tours, to helping with meetings.

 
 
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CHECK-IN

At check-in, each customer’s room number, key card and private information would be tucked discreetly in a book that they could keep (and read) for the duration of their stay– since even something as simple as having their room number called aloud can make women feel uneasy.

To help guests feel empowered to explore, The Narrative would provide a curated map of local must-sees and a bookmark with Lyft discount codes to get them there.

Solves for: Ways to Explore

CHECK-OUT

Inspired by a library borrow log, the digital logbook encourages guests to browse & explore what locals and other guests have experienced during their visits.

When it’s time for guests to check out, they can contribute a verse to the ongoing narrative of guest experiences from this particular location.

Solves for: Ways to Explore

 
 
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With The Narrative, Hilton stands not only for quality & consistency– but for the empowered traveler.

 
 

Design Process

C4D BEHIND-THE-SCENES

 
 
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Floor Plan & Functions

 
 
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MATERIAL PALETTE & LOCAL INSPIRATION

 
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VISION BOARDS & TESTING

 
 
 
 
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BRAND IDENTITY

 
 
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Created in collaboration with:

Chloe Friedman, Art Director

Caitlin Russell, Strategist

Kate Fallon, Strategist

Robert Clark, Jr., Creative Brand Manager

Josh Perry, Copywriter

 
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