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The Power of a Fictitious Muse

by ryan • May 5

Jonathan Adler inspired the audience at FUSE 2013 by structuring his talk around a virtual tour of the house he and husband, Simon Doonan, designed and built for themselves on Block Island.  His signature style and intimate descriptions of personal tchotchkes and design choices opened a window into the mind of this design juggernaut.

However, it was Jonathan’s inspirations that we’re most interesting and revealing.  When designing the Parker Hotel in Palm Springs, he created a fictitious muse, Mrs. Parker, to inspire and guide his choices.  Instead of focusing on what the client or future guest would find appealing, Mr. Adler chose an aspirational, eccentric and extravagant character to guide his design decisions.

We begin each design project with a visual briefing session to align our clients on a common visual language.  At the heart of this exercise is a selecting a muse, who represents the aspirational ideal of our target audience.  By stretching out of the explicit target mindset, we allow ourselves to explore designs that are beyond the expected and everyday.

Jonathan added that when designing, he doesn’t solicit the opinion of anyone ever.  But with the Parker Hotel, he perpetually consulted the opinion of the fictitious muse, Mrs. Parker, to keep the design true and on-track.  While we don’t always have the opportunity to ignore the opinions of clients and the people who buy their products, we can stay true to our muse and stretch the boundaries beyond the ordinary.

What’s your best tip for keeping designs and ideas on-track without going off the rails?