Instagram is changing how restaurant design spaces, making them irresistibly picture-worthy.
Walking into New York City’s Supermoon Bakehouse, it’s hard to resist taking out your smartphone camera to capture the space. “If I said I designed Supermoon Bakehouse without Instagram in mind, people would look around and say I’m a liar,” Aron Tzimas, designer and co-owner, tells JWT Intelligence. Opened in fall 2017, the bakery has garnered attention not only for the sweet treats by chef Ry Stephen, but also for its design.
Picture stepping into a stark, minimalist concrete setting where a luxurious pink terrazzo counter is the centerpiece and 10 meticulously crafted pastries of the day are on display. Behind the counter, a neat stack of iridescent boxes shimmers against one wall, and on the opposite wall are the playful words “Bite Me NYC” in pink neon lighting. A pane of glass separates the storefront from the kitchen, so customers can watch the pastry chefs in action. This bakery set-up is far from the crammed, to-go café culture consumers are accustomed to in the city. “We wanted the presentation of the store to look like an art gallery where the pastries are the hero,” explains Tzimas, “so at the front you see the art and at the back you see the artists in residence.”
Over the past year a host of new, independent, and Instagram-worthy food venues has popped up, from Élan Café’s celebration of millennial pink in London and New York City’s rainbow-inspired Flour Shop to kitsch San Francisco restaurant Media Noche.
Instagram has become an integral marketing tool for restaurants. It has 800 million active monthly users, as of November 2017—80% of Instagrammers follow a brand and 60% say they learn about new products and services via the app, according to the company’s own research, so Instagram is starting to dictate design cues. “The level of design for both interior and product has gone up drastically since Instagram, so, as consumers—we win,” says Tzimas.
In February 2018, hawker-style food venue HWKR opened in Melbourne. “Being Instagram-ready was a primary focus for the design process,” Michael Tan tells JWT Intelligence. Tan, creative director at BrandWorks, led the strategy for HWKR alongside Craig Tan Architects and 8 Clients social media. “From the bright neon entry to the emoji-inspired animated characters on the back wall, HWKR was designed with the purpose of being shared and staying memorable,” he says.
The design offers an open, communal, hawker-style space with digital-friendly touchpoints, thus marrying analogue and digital. “In a time where taking selfies reigns supreme, we try to create spaces that promote social engagement, providing different types of seating environments, booths, communal tables, tiered bleachers and counter-side, to encourage socializing at different levels,” explains Tan.
With millennial pink, floral walls and neon signage, designers are pushing the aesthetics and experience of restaurant interiors, vying to be the most Instagrammable of them all. However, with the positives of heightened visual culture come the negatives. Over-populated interior imagery on social media has led to a flood of copycats. “Everything is starting to look the same—white tiles, pink terrazzo, neon signs—they’re my favorite materials, so it’s unfortunate,” says Tzimas. As designers of varying standards seek to curate Instagrammable interiors, there seems to be an easy decor recipe to follow and, as a result, “places start looking homogenous and the authenticity is completely lost,” says Tan.
What’s next for Insta-interiors? “Just looking good for the sake of looking good won’t get you far anymore,” explains Tzimas. “I think the future of design will be much more based around experience—open kitchens and more transparency is going to be bigger going forwards. This not only connects with Instagram but all of culture.”
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