Magic in the Room #46: Lifelong Learning w/ Special Guest John Stewart

What happens in the brain when we see something, touch something, hear or smell something? In this episode, Chris and Luke explore how memories are formed and the role of experimentation and hands-on learning with architect John Stewart.


John Stewart is an award-winning architect who focuses on sensory informed design. He is passionate about how neuroscience can inform design and memory formation through human experiences inside built environments. John shares his mission of creating memorable one-of-a-kind experiences that will keep guests coming back.


In today’s episode, John reveals that neuroscientists don’t study the brain. They study a piece of the brain because it’s so complex. But in his work, he attempts to pull it all together. His teams work with neuroscientists and architects to build memorable experiences. Chris shares his fascination with the different brand sounds that create these experiences without us even realizing it.


When on a journey of lifelong learning and awakening the senses, how do you strike a balance between predictability, security, knowing what’s coming, and experimentation with new ideas? The teams discuss their experiences and also their encounters with sensory informed design.


Chris asks the listeners to think about when they hear their hotel room door unlock. What’s the Hilton sound like? Is it different from what the Marriott or the Hard Rock sounds like? Every building we enter is filled with multiple touchpoints that can overload our senses or deliver familiarity.


John asks everyone listening to describe the door handle on the front of their office building. If you don’t know, he asks listeners to describe what a door handle will look like at a Hard Rock venue? Most people will successfully answer; it’s a guitar. This inexpensive and straightforward move is a perfect example of sensory informed design across a brand. It’s not about spending big but being diligent about designing those memorable things and understanding how the brain works to make a memory.


The hosts discuss the design components they have encountered in hospitality environments. Everything we touch, feel, hear and smell, will build memories and create experiences. Chris asks the listeners to think about how they can be more intentional with the touchpoints in the enterprise or across their brand and with the people that engage with it.

What do you sense each morning when you walk over the front threshold as a team member or an employee?


What do you experience? What do you eat? What do you smell? What do you touch? Like? What level of intentionality do you bring to this space? As a visual person, today’s conversation delivered a game-changer moment for Luke. He shares how he now has a whole new way of seeing everything. Luke also adds what we brands should use this ability to help people be intentional about their employee’s and their customer’s experiences to open up a new realm of possibilities.


As a team of lifelong learners, the hosts commit to leveraging this conversation to bring many more adventurous learning episodes into their own lives. Please share your experiences with sensory informed design and lifelong learning by messaging Chris, Hannah, and Luke at


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