Adam Woods considers the future of gambling in the UK (DW 28 October), and is right to view the likely development of big casinos as an opportunity for British designers (irrespective of the social implications of this change).
But Woods scathingly notes the ‘staggeringly grandiose’ design of the Las Vegas strip – and is patronising when referencing US casino operators’ belief in the importance of design, which he feels is likely to be ‘possibly not in a spirit with which British designers will easily be able to identify’.
While the kitsch Vegas strip may not be to everyone’s taste (particularly not the over-refined tastes of design professionals), Woods fails to acknowledge the appropriateness of some of that iconic, populist design. Vegas is about
escapism and fun – it’s Disney for grown-ups – and it attracts 35 million visitors a year (many from the UK), generating $32bn (£17bn). So even if we don’t ‘approve’, they must be doing something right.
Casinos are what they are. Does Woods think that Pot Noodle should be revamped to look like something that might grace the shelves of Harvey Nichols? Professional design is as much about understanding the target markets and being relevant as it is about being creative or ‘stylish’.
If the UK design world is going to embrace the opportunities of the new casinos, we will have to get further than Woods did in understanding what they mean to the people who actually use them. A design approach that snootily seeks to make them ‘classier’ by stealth is basically missing the point – and carries the risk of failing to appeal to its target audience.
Once a casino’s role as escapism is understood, then perhaps we can embrace the opportunities to create some exciting and distinctive, but relevant, interior design.