Miami - Interviews

Belong. Here. Now. An interview with Jonathan Mildenhall

4 years ago

Airbnb, the world’s leading community-driven hospitality company, has presented at Design Miami/ the interactive installation Belong. Here. Now.

The Design Miami/ Satellite was designed by Chicago-based architects Design With Company, and hosted interactive experiences by some of the world’s most exciting new creatives.

I’ve met with Jonathan Mildenhall, CMO – Airbnb, in Miami Beach at the Airbnb Installation.

Mara Sartore: When I first started seeing Airbnb projects with art and design, it was natural that for me Airbnb would be interested in researching those subjects. But could you tell me a bit more about how these projects were born and what was the real energy that pushed you?

Jonathan Mildenhall: First and foremost, two out of three of our founders are design school graduates. Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia have been educated about the value of design, one of the interesting things that they learned at school is that if you don’t like something, you can design a solution to address it. The two of them have always had this program since when they were young adults about how design can help change human behavior, human values, human connection and human aesthetics; they have made sure that the creative design philosophy has been put into every single aspect of Airbnb; wether it’s our logo, our offices that are incredibly well designed, whether it’s about the quality of people and the organizational structures that they designed to build this business. Design thinking is the real core of our DNA. As we started to build the foundational business we didn’t want to loose the influence that the design community can have on how Airbnb and Airbnb’s community can continue to evolve though thoughtful design systems. My commitment for our brand is that I want to engage with this community because this community can help me continue to rethink and revaluate the way that Airbnb brand shows up not just in the world but for our hosts and guests as well. So design is a core part of our DNA but also our future.

MS: Could you tell me a bit about the three main projects you have been developing since 2014?

JM: The first that we did was in 2014 at London Design Week where we worked with several artists and gave them the brief about just reimagining the home and in a very public space (you will notice that sometimes we are very very public and not really exclusive) we showed homes of the future through the images and imagination of these designers and people could go up and play and walk all over those. Then we went to Milan, were it was slightly different because what we did was that we took very very grand palazzo and we worked with several artists ton interpret welcoming and what welcoming meant for their culture. People would given an access into this incredible incredible place and as they were wandering around they got definite cultural experiences of what welcoming was all about. They were two really different experiences but they were all about the home. This time here in Miami it’s not really about the home but it’s about the community of artists. It’s a projects that makes people understand better this notion of belonging in different creative communities.

MS: How do you work to select the artists and designers involved in each projects?

JM: The number one criteria is diversity and it’s really really interesting when you compare Airbnb as a brand with all of the other brands that I’ve worked with wether is Nike, Coca Cola or Levi’s, consistency is the thing that has driven global brands historically. Airbnb is not about consistency, if in a town we have 300 Airbnb’s you have 300 different experience of it; that’s a beautiful thing so diversity is a core part of the brand and number one criteria for our talents is that they are diverse; number two is that they come from the community and number three is that they must be wonderful creative people with wonderful stories to share. We’ve got a diverse range of talent in a diverse range of creative industries that want to come together and help us build this incredible experience.

MS: What about the future?

JM: This morning I met with Craig Robins, the person who founded Design Miami. I asked him to tell me his story. I was interested as a man how he grew and how he grew this. What he has done over the last 28 years is unimaginable and I left there this morning thinking what Airbnb is going to do over then next 10 years within this community is unimaginable. We’re going to stay so committed to the design community, we’re going to partner with new designers that the world doesn’t yet even know and iconic designers that the world knows. I really do want to transform what people think of when they think of Airbnb and our design partnerships. Wether that’s in home of the future or in technology of the future or community of the future I don’t know, but what this week has done is to allow me to take any guard-rails off my imagination and I think you’ll see it over the next 10 years.

Mara Sartore

  • Airbnb's Belong. Here. Now. for Design Miami/ 2 - 6 December 2015. Airbnb's Belong. Here. Now. for Design Miami/ 2 - 6 December 2015.
  • Housewarming by Airbnb x Fabrica, Milan 2015 Housewarming by Airbnb x Fabrica, Milan 2015
  • A Place Called Home by Airbnb, London Design Festival 2014 A Place Called Home by Airbnb, London Design Festival 2014
  • Jonathan Mildenhall Jonathan Mildenhall