Hello! We are excited to release our recent interview with Elizabeth Von Lehe, of ICRAVE, based in New York, NY. Known for creative, high-energy environments that actively engage visitors, ICRAVE has mastered the art of experience design, melding operational, digital, and physical elements across a spectrum of diverse spaces. Helmed by Lionel Ohayon since 2002, ICRAVE has designed award-winning hospitality, airport, development, and healthcare projects, partnering with high profile brands such as W Hotels, MGM, Disney Dream, Hilton, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Summit Series, and OTG. Spanning a number of industries, ICRAVE’s notable projects include Le District, LaGuardia’s Delta Terminal C & D, The Summit at Powder Mountain, STK Restaurants, Provocateur, and more. With expertise in architectural design, strategy, and lighting, ICRAVE is credited with reinventing the modern day airport experience, reimagining cancer care, and transforming New York’s Meatpacking District through creating some of the most iconic nightlife of the last decade. Check out their website for more great projects.
Images courtesy of ICRAVE.
VT: Your mission statement is “foster curiosity in the world around us”. How do you usher this principle into your daily routine and projects?
EVL: Our designs work on all scales which means building in moments of surprise that enrich the experience. Creating designs in spaces that think about every touch point force us as designers to think of novel ways to make the everyday extraordinary. Our process always starts with strategic engagement — we question the norm and seek ideas that will move the needle for our clients.
VT: Tell us about the Imprimatur event series that ICRAVE produces. How did it come about and how does it inspire and benefit designers?
EVL: Imprimatur is ICRAVE’s interactive event series that provokes ideas for the brave and creative curiosity. We’ve been hosting Imprimatur events for the past 3 years as a way to explore topics within and beyond our design work. From small salons on education to a rooftop dinner exploring the future of food, our events allow us to foster creative dialogue, highlight innovation across disciplines and showcase our curatorial mission.
VT: Airport design combines many areas of design expertise such as hospitality, retail, transportation, etc. How can studying different types of expertise inform your design choices? Do you see any trends from other industries being incorporated into airport design?
EVL: Merging of areas of design expertise is a relatively new practice for airports. Our firm got its start in hospitality: restaurants, nightlife, and experiential entertainment. When we expanded our work into airports and infused tactics of hospitality design into the traveler experience, we crafted a detailed user experience that worked at the human scale, and helped ease anxiety. It was a big breakthrough for the industry. For students just beginning their careers, I would encourage learning about as many fields as possible — giving you a broad selection of skills to create novel design solutions that solve experiential problems. One of the biggest trends that is making its way from hospitality into airport design is the smart integration of technology — going beyond the iPad ordering station to interactive entertainment and lifestyle solutions that extend beyond the airport.
VT: Branding and guest experience are big focuses in your projects. Do these two aspects influence each other? What other focuses do you find are important to keep in mind when designing?
EVL: We truly believe that the experience is the brand, meaning that the guest experience is baked into the full design process. With our approach to design, brand and guest experience go far beyond influencing the design — they are at the table, and part of the full development. Just as the experience is integrated into the design process at ICRAVE, we also focus on amplification — how our spaces will continue to grow, evolve, and speak to people long after they’ve opened.