The idea you create becomes a product. A designer's belief in valuing "customer experience" that changes people's minds.

Hirofumi Inoue is a room chief who is mainly in charge of the hotel market. concept design, which prioritize "experiences" that bring about changes in the hearts of users, capture the hearts of his customers. Inoue is a designer who also works as a Shinto priest in the family business, and we will explore the values that he holds dear as he uses his own experiences as a unique style in his work.


The first thing we think about is the "experience." We create experiences and elevate them into concept design

Inoue is a member of concept design Design Department 4 of the First concept design Center of the Creative Headquarters. He joined the company in 2007 and since 2017 has been mainly in charge of hotel and regional revitalization projects.

Inoue: “I often work with hotel operators who place emphasis on storytelling and customer experience.For example, Hoshino Resorts started work with KAI Kaga, and OMO7 Asahikawa, the first OMO brand store, is also in the works. I was in charge.
In 2021, we worked with ARTH Co., Ltd. to help convert an old private house in Izu into an auberge (restaurant with accommodation facilities) called ` `LOQUAT Nishiizu.''

When concept design a hotel, Inoue always considers the "customer experience" first.

Inoue: "It is quite difficult to attract customers with just the appeal of the spatial concept design. When I stay at a hotel myself, I am more satisfied with the variety of experiences I have and the number of times I am able to talk to the staff than with interiors.

When I was in charge of OMO7 Asahikawa by Hoshino Resorts, I thought of an experience that would connect staff and guests, and created that in the space. By incorporating mechanisms that lead to experiences within the space, such as a faucet in the shape of a wooden carved bear, a standard Hokkaido souvenir, that can be used to welcome guests with a local welcome drink, I believe that the stay itself will be enriched and satisfaction will be increased."

The starting point for this thinking is Inoue's own experience. I trust my instincts and create customer experiences.

Inoue: “At hotels, we set personas (typical user images) and make assumptions like, ``A couple in their 30s will stay there, and they have these hobbies...'', but only those people fit that description. is not coming.
I believe that there will be a discrepancy between the persona and the people who actually come, so I place importance on the idea that anyone who stays at a hotel that they or their family find ``fun'' will find it enjoyable.''

Inoue also currently works as a part-time lecturer at Tokyo University of the Arts, and is also involved in the Shinto priesthood at a shrine in his hometown of Okayama.
In a company culture that views complex work styles as ``interesting,'' he embodies his belief that ``more than being an office worker, one should live as a designer.''

Inoue: "During the New Year holidays and other times, I return to my family's shrine in Okayama to serve as the shrine's successor. In 2018, I took a year off work to obtain qualifications as a Shinto priest. I remember my boss at the time telling me, 'In the future, there will be more freedom in how we work, so I think it would be good for there to be designers in Okayama who work as Shinto priests while also doing concept design.'

The way each designer lives their life is directly linked to their work output, and I feel that this is a company that is interested in my unique career path."


I joined the company because I was moved by the designer's words, "Let's do it together."

As a student, he studied architecture at the Department of environmental design at Hiroshima Institute of Technology, and majored in concept design at the Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School, acquiring a wide range of knowledge from interior design to urban concept design. During his job hunting, he interviewed in a variety of industries, but what made him decide to join NOMURA was "the words of the interviewer."

Inoue: ``The main interviewers were three designers, and after they gave a presentation on their work related to urban development, Echiyo Suzuki, who is currently our executive creative director, said, ``I am also involved in urban development like this.Let's do it together.'' ``I got the impression that the company was seriously looking for people to work with, and I had an image of myself working as a designer, so I decided to join.''

I had a hunch that the work at NOMURA was an extension of my own creative endeavors. After joining the company in 2007, I was assigned to CC Company (CC: an abbreviation for Creative Communication), which handles projects related to corporate culture.

Inoue: "At my post, I was involved in the creation of facilities that disseminate information, such as museums, displays, and corporate showrooms. I spent about 10 years creating spaces with the idea of 'how to convey information,' and in 2016 I was transferred to the Chubu branch under the junior rotation system. There, I was in charge of a commercial project for Hoshino Resorts."

The first project Inoue was in charge of at Hoshino Resorts was the renovation of the public bath at KAI Kaga, where customer satisfaction was sluggish at the time. Inoue, who started his career in the corporate culture field, made proposals from a different perspective than other designers.

Inoue: "I made a presentation saying that no matter how cool concept design of a large public bath is, it won't increase customer satisfaction. I believe that customer satisfaction depends on how the conversations that are generated among customers are generated, so it's important to create a space that naturally generates conversations, such as, 'How was the men's bath?' or 'I heard this area is famous for concept design ware.' I proposed, 'This time, we will focus on how to increase the number of conversations,' and President Hoshino praised my proposal highly, saying, 'That's an interesting proposal.' That was the start of my continuing to work on projects with Hoshino Resorts to this day."


Proposing hotel concept design to enhance customer satisfaction

▲ “OMO7 Asahikawa by Hoshino Resorts”

While Inoue has been involved in a variety of projects, the ones that stick out in his mind are 2018's OMO7 Asahikawa by Hoshino Resorts and 2021's LOQUAT Nishiizu.
OMO7 Asahikawa's theme was ``a hotel filled with hospitality that lifts your spirits with playfulness and humor,'' and we proposed a project to match that theme.

Inoue: ``There are many different ways to get excited, so I proposed creating devices in various places around the hotel.For example, Asahikawa is a wood-producing area, so when you check in, you receive a kit and make a carved wooden spoon, and the next morning you can use that spoon for breakfast.'' When you eat, I think the taste becomes even more delicious.When I proposed that I would like to create many such devices to increase customer satisfaction, it was accepted in a competition and I was able to begin the design process. ”

What we struggled with was ``how to imagine the root of the customer's needs and come up with an answer.''

Inoue: "As the project progressed, the person in charge told us, 'We particularly want to change concept design of the restaurant. If your proposal were a soup, it would be like a consommé soup. What we want to make is pork soup.' We interpreted in our own way what our customers thought of as pork soup, and realized that the answer they were looking for was a space that was easy to use and would not change the base of the space even if various ingredients were mixed in, so we made bold changes to concept design.
Now, using the space in concept design that we left for the staff, the hotel is evolving into a fun place with more and more ideas coming out."

“LOQUAT Nishiizu” is a conversion of an old folk house. Looking back on the planning stage, he says, ``The deciding factor was how well we could visualize the final product and convince people.''

Inoue: Most of the hotels in old houses, which are increasing in number these days, are refinishing the walls.However, Mr. Okada of Okada Construction Company, whom I respect, told me, ``How do you preserve the memory of a building? ``Even if the design doesn't look pretty at first glance, preserving even a little bit of this memory will lead to a more satisfied customer's stay, and it will become a topic for the staff to talk about with the customer.'' I will do it.''

The representative and staff asked us to repaint all the clay walls because we don't want them to look dirty, but we kept telling them that if we painted them, the product value would be lost, and in the end they were satisfied. I received it. As a result, communication between staff and customers has increased, and we are now able to differentiate ourselves from other old folk houses. Nowadays, we have a constant stream of repeat guests, making it a popular inn that is difficult to make reservations for.”


Utilizing experience in multiple industries based on the idea of emphasizing experience

Inoue has gained experience working across multiple markets, including cultural facilities, corporate showrooms and displays, and commercial hotels. In the future, he will utilize his experience to demonstrate his abilities without limiting himself to a specific industry.

Inoue: ``It's not that I want to do this, but I enjoy solving problems no matter what kind of work comes my way.Currently, I'm involved in designing residences for seniors and utilizing idle land in rural areas.'' Our goal is to use the know-how we have cultivated to contribute to society.
For example, if you live in a residence for seniors, you can create a mechanism for them to go out into the city, which will increase their chances of walking and extend their healthy life expectancy. As a room chief, I am conscious of making sure that I can effectively contribute to society by leveraging my know-how, regardless of genre.''

Inoue also supervises training for new employees at the Creative Division. He says that when you develop your creativity, your work itself becomes more enjoyable.

Inoue: "When I'm asked to concept design a place to drink coffee, if I create it without thinking about anything, I think it will end up being concept design with a nice atmosphere like the major coffee chains that are doing well right now. But what's important here is to think about the root of it: what kind of situation is the moment when you feel that the coffee is truly delicious? That could be coffee you drink outside on a very cold day, or instant coffee made for you by your child. If you think about it to the root, it won't end up being concept design like the major coffee chains.

If designers themselves cannot come up with answers that AI cannot provide from their own feelings, I think that in the near future, there will be no jobs for designers at all. However, something born from an idea or mindset that comes from your own feelings cannot be denied, and there will surely be people who can empathize with it. The ideas that are created will become products as they are, so it is the designer's responsibility to come up with ideas that make people think, 'I want to experience this too' or 'I want to go there'."

Inoue's concept design place emphasis not only on the visible aspects, but also on the stories behind them.
Armed with the belief that "creativity = product power," we continue to create concept design that stand out from the rest.


*The contents are as of December 2023.


Hirofumi Inoue

He joined NOMURA as a designer in 2007. In recent years, he has been involved in planning and designing in a wide range of fields, including regional revitalization concept design, accommodation such as hotels and inns, spatial communication such as corporate showrooms, and displays at cultural facilities, with a focus on spatial communication, without limiting himself to a specific field.

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