What’s been the biggest innovation in hospitality design in the past two years? Augmented reality? Dynamic environments? Personalisation?  

Wrong. Thanks to the increasingly deep insights it provides into the minds of future end-users, Instagram is having a greater impact than any of the above combined.


For every designer who appreciates the importance of creating experiences which are eye-catching enough to be shared on social media, there are plenty of others who hold their noses up at the idea.

Yet, using Instagram to inform your design isn’t just a frivolous fad – it’s basic business sense for two reasons.

Firstly, with one billion active users, Instagram offers an extremely cost-effective PR platform. The only thing Instagrammers ask for in return is that you design your space in a way that stands out – at least enough for them to stop for a couple of seconds, take a picture, tag your location and then share it with their tribe.

Our previous Instagram Design Guide takes a closer look at some of the best ideas to make your space more visually appealing and photo-friendly – indeed ‘Instagrammable’.

But as part of this article we’re more interested in the second reason, which is that Instagram can provide you with valuable insights into the emotional and social psyche of your future guests – elements which you can then incorporate into your design.

An Instagram-window into the soul

Before you start framing your design concept, you need to get crystal-clear on which niche you’re designing for. What are the needs and wants of that niche when they visit your location? What does ‘remarkable’ look like in their world?

In our recent Niche Design Guide, we provided a step-by-step process for getting under the skin of your future guests and sketching out some very detailed user personas.

When it comes to finding out what those future guests find remarkable, we recommend pinpointing where they currently spend time and then taking a closer look at the Instagram accounts, location tags and hashtags associated with those venues.

By scanning and analysing existing posts you can pull out valuable information about the type of experience your future guests will find remarkable enough to document on social media.

For example, at Valé we categorise posts according to whether they focus on the person who took the picture, the exterior of the building, interior design features, the pool or outdoor areas, signage, the natural environment, cityscapes, or the way the food is represented. 

This reveals certain patterns which you can then replicate – not imitate – in your own design.

The more pictures you analyse, the more data you can collect. Of course, you don’t need to scour through thousands of pictures if you don’t have the resources to do so. A sample of a couple of hundred pictures, classified by theme, will give you a good idea of what your niche finds visually appealing and worthy of sharing with their tribe.

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Thrifty Desntination Seekers.png

As an example, imagine the fancy-free, footloose millennial Thrifty Destination Junkie. Often travelling around on their own or with a small group of friends, they’re tech-savvy social media addicts who want to be in the ‘thick of it’.

Typical examples of the type accommodation they choose are Le Pirate on the Indonesian island of Lombok, and the city hotel brand Yotel in New York.






A scan of #LePirate shows guests are more excited by the surrounding beaches, turquoise waters and beachfront hammocks than they are by the food, room design or the interior design aesthetics of the resort. Their Instagram behaviour demonstrates this niche prefers experience over luxury.

Indeed, #LePirate shows that if you’re a hotel owner blessed with an awesome location, you’re best off blending your design with the natural environment, thus creating a high remarkability factor among this niche.

Different climate and a more urban setting, but a similar approach is taken by Yotel. #YotelNewYork shows plenty of skylines, cityscapes and quirky design features in the common areas. But Yotel visitors also appear drawn to its compact, colourful and hipster guest rooms. Indeed, Yotel shows that clever artificial light has an immense impact on how Thrifty Destination Junkies experience a space, turning it into highly remarkable, ‘Instagrammable’ experiences.

When designing a city hub aimed at attracting a young, mobile and trendy crowd on a budget, it’s worth spending extra resources on reflecting this niche’s mindset of wanting to be part of a ‘happening’ and ‘funky’ place. Yotel shows that clever lighting can play an important part in this. Indeed, their attention to design detail in strategic places has been key to their success.


There are many factors to take into account when designing a building, but all too often the experience of the future guests is overlooked.

Instagram offers a great tool for understanding the kind of experience your future guests desire when they step through your doors. By analysing the hashtags of similar venues, you can figure out at an early stage which design features are likely to get you most traction on social media.

So play around with this idea. Find out which venues your niche is currently visiting and check out their hashtags. What are the common themes? What can you replicate in your own design?



Want to know how we use Instagram as a design tool at Valé Architects? Get the Brand Review Toolkit today!

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