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Behind the Scenes: How Designers Bring Paradise to Life

One of the most frequent questions asked of an architect is, where do you get your ideas? Surprisingly, the actual design process is only a part of the job of an architect and designer – the design process is an elaborate orchestration of brand essence, function, budget and purpose, all carefully crafted together to produce a successful project. Architects manipulate space and art to create an environment that speaks to a story – you might say the same way a composer blends instruments and a melody together to create a musical composition. Every song has a story as does every architectural project – a story that you experience with all five senses!

Margaritaville has a rich and compelling story – it’s not a specific location, it’s not just a resort or restaurant, and it’s definitely not just a song. Margaritaville is often referred to as a “state of mind.” While that may seem poetic, it poses a huge challenge for an architect: How do you capture a state of mind as a physical experience? The answer can be found in the fundamentals of the creative process: capture the essence of Margaritaville in experiential elements that support the “big story.”

You know this story by heart. Jimmy’s most famous song is an anthem to a relaxed and carefree lifestyle. The four-minute song “Margaritaville,” with just 208 words, is the foundation for a massive empire of restaurants, casinos, resorts, products and events. The song instantly takes you away from reality to a beachfront, laid-back lifestyle that many people often dream about. How does a designer convey the essence of a song into an experience? The easiest way to start is to condense the overall intent into a single word. For Margaritaville, that word is …

Escape from everyday life, escape from the things that weigh us down, escape from the mundane. At The McBride Company, we focus on creating spaces that reflect and encourage an immersive state of mind where doubt and worry are replaced with wonder and delight. This philosophy, when applied to creating the Margaritaville experience, results in a complex blend of space, color, texture, sound and iconography that captures the spirit of the original song.


There is no better example of this than the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort. “For close to 20 years, we’ve partnered with Margaritaville to conceptualize and design restaurants, hotels and casinos that give guests the opportunity to escape from the pressures of everyday life and experience the laid-back lifestyle of Jimmy Buffett firsthand,” says Pat McBride, CEO of The McBride Company. “Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort explores the elements of the Margaritaville brand in a new light, demonstrating that it can be coastal-luxe and sophisticated while still being a lot of fun!”

So how do designers actually bring an idea, a song and the concept of “escapism” to reality? We do it through the careful manipulation of space and sensory elements. In essence, we create an experience through the blending of elements into a final “story.” The chapters of that story combine to tell the tale of Margaritaville, beginning with, of course, the “introduction” – the arrival into the space. Key elements, or chapters, continue to tell a tale and blend together to create the complete branded experience. The main chapters in this famous story spring from the designer’s toolkit – key elements crafted to convey emotion and experience. They include:

The voluminous use of space in lobby design and communal areas is important in conveying the sense of a tropical beach paradise. It is offset by the transition into smaller, more intimate spaces, constantly surprising guests through the transition and interplay of different environmental experiences.


Texture is a key element of the Margaritaville experience. The use of natural and tropical materials, both tactile and implied, reinforces the escapism of the beach and the visual continuation of the brand. The interplay of texture created by the use of a variety of materials, including fabrics, surfaces, flooring and wall coverings, adds a rich, tangible storytelling element.

Color is one of the most essential elements – a visual identity cue that instantly associates an experience with an identity. As you can imagine, Margaritaville draws its identity from a rich tapestry of color. Everything from the cool blues of a tropical paradise to the vibrant and powerful colors of a parrot is combined to create the signature Jimmy Buffett look and feel.


Surprisingly, it’s not a simple matter of playing “Margaritaville” on a loop that creates the ambience of the brand. It’s a combination of music, natural sounds, ambient music and silence that are carefully combined to create emotion, excitement, relaxation and storytelling. You may not consciously realize it, but the sounds you hear impact your mood, your sense of adventure and sometimes even your appetite!

Art & Decor
Our humanity, love and imagination are captured and conveyed through art. Our designers leverage a diversity of talent, both locally and internationally, to customize art programs and visual stories that continue the Margaritaville story. Lyrics, artistic interpretations, photography and sculpture extend throughout the public spaces as well as the guest rooms – always reinforcing the mindset of escapism.

arch-4-blue-flip-flopPart of the design process includes the customization of props, furnishings, light fixtures, casework and signature icons that reinforce and create memorable moments. The showpiece of the Margaritaville Hollywood Beach Resort, for example, is a 14-foot-tall flip-flop, complete with the infamous pop-top. It’s a favorite photo-op for guests!

Amenities are not just used for comfort or service – they are used by the designer as vehicles to convey emotion and experience. From the finest restaurants to a casual coffee shop, our Margaritaville designers layer multiple stories, graphic design and visual diversity into each dining location. Upscale amenities, such as a spa or pool, are the perfect way to create actual environments akin to the ultimate beach experience – complete with a frozen blender of your favorite beverage!


These are a few of the many visual and experiential ways that a designer conveys the story of an experience. In a world of increased expectations for design intelligence, it becomes even more important to address both identity and brand recognition in architectural design. It doesn’t matter if the venue is a restaurant, resort, casino or hotel, the Margaritaville experience is created by appealing to the senses – both physically and mentally. Maybe that’s why Margaritaville is called a “state of mind” after all.


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