What Level is Your Design Business?

Global Hospitality Interior Design, Juan Carlos Rodriquez Artigas of Wilson Associates

Episode 435 of A Well-Designed Business®

Welcome! Today, we have Juan Carlos Rodriguez-Artigas on the show with us. Juan Carlos is an accomplished architect and interior designer with extensive experience in high-end hospitality, restaurant, commercial, and residential design. He is currently the design director of the London Studio of the global interior architecture firm, Wilson Associates. Juan Carlos’s position is multi-faceted, and in today’s episode, he discusses his role and responsibilities, as the firm’s design director, where he oversees the day-to-day operations and projects of the London studio. In addition to creating beautiful projects, he has been in charge of the hiring and building of a cohesive and talented team, which he has then had to lead and guide. Also, a large part of his job involves finding, meeting, and creating opportunities for new business for the firm, and he explains that this all starts with relationships and with connecting to people. Tune in now to find out more. 

Wilson Associates is a collection of 10 design firms around the world whose work encompasses interior architectural design, architecture, art consultancy, concept development, branding, and food and beverage design. Their portfolio includes some of the most prestigious hospitality projects in the world. Listen in today, to hear what Juan Carlos has to share.

Show Highlights:

  • Juan Carlos shares some of his experiences from the past year while building the London studio.
  • The pros and cons of first working for a small firm, and then jumping to a big firm.
  • Juan Carlos shares what he was looking for when hiring his team members.
  • Starting out with a small team and growing organically.
  • When building his team, he was looking for flexibility and team players. That’s his secret to creating a small, winning team.
  • Running a small office has involved wearing a number of different hats.
  • Juan describes the difference between his last position and his current one, with Wilson Associates.
  • Creating a strong foundation with the team he built.
  • The kind of skill set that Juan Carlos required his team members to have.
  • Why Juan Carlos prefers working in hospitality, rather than in residential.
  • Having to take into account what the operations team is telling you when designing for hospitality.
  • Juan Carlos describes his superpower and the superpower of Wilson Associates.
  • The way that all the offices of Wilson Associates collaborate and support each other.
  • Even though Wilson Associates is a global team, each studio has its own identity.
  • How Juan Carlos, personally, cultivates a pipeline of hospitality projects.
  • The event that Juan Carlos would recommend for everyone to go to.
  • The biggest challenge that Juan Carlos has faced, that has also been a great lesson for him.
  • Some advice for keeping a pressured team happy and moving.


Role & Responsibility:

Juan is an architect and interior designer with an extensive and

holistic international experience in high-end hospitality, restaurant,

commercial and residential design.

Combining strengths in architecture and interior design, Juan worked

eight years as an independent designer and creative consultant on

different high end commercial and residential projects in Spain and


He was Designer Director at Rockwell Group Europe, managing a

variety of projects in Asia and the Middle East for some of the most

prestigious hospitality brands.

He currently leads the recently open Wilson associates London office.

In charge of this edition sleep & eat theater.

Juan Carlos says:

“People ignore design that

ignores people”


College Degree in

Architecture at Universidad

Anahuac Mexico City, Mexico

Interior design degree/

Instituto Europeo di Design

Madrid, Spain

Master degree in project

management & design

Universidad San Pablo Ceu

Madrid, Spain

Links and resources:

Wilson Associates website:  Wilson Associates

Designer Questionnaire


  • Title: Design Director London Office
  • Languages spoken: English / Spanish and a bit of Italian
  • Education: College Degree in Architecture/ Universidad Anahuac Mexico City
  • Professional accreditations and/or memberships:- Interior design degree/ Istituto Europeo di Design Madrid, Spain –Master degree in project management & design Universidad San Pablo Ceu Madrid, Spain.
  • Tenure at Wilson: March 2018
  • Quote you live by or your design mantra: “People ignore design that ignores people”

Beyond the Basics:

  • What attracted you to Wilson Associates? What do you enjoy most about working here?

I’ve always loved a challenge; opening an office for such as important and reputable firm like Wilson Associates in a city like London has been one of the most exciting and rewarding challenges in my career to date.

  • When did you know you wanted to be a designer?

I don’t think we ever really know what we want to be, but we do begin doing things we love, and by finding our passion you realize it is something you want to do and be forever.

  • Where do you find your design inspiration? Everything is inspiring if you look and pay attention.
  • Do you have any advice for young designers? Is there any piece of advice you were given early in your career that sticks with you?

Don’t be afraid to fail; defend your ideas, but never fall in love with them and always listen to different points-of-views.

  • What are some of your career accomplishments? What projects are you most proud of?

Some of my career accomplishments within design come from participating in projects like the recently opened W Suzhou and Hotel Ingles in Madrid, which opened Spring 2018. I have a special affection for high-end residential design, especially a recent penthouse project in Madrid before I entered the hospitality field.

  • What is the most rewarding part of the job? The most challenging?

Any project that ends with a shake of hands and smile from a client is an accomplishment. In hospitality, I find the most challenging part of the job is not only working as a designer but as a mediator between a hotel operator and ownership when they have very opposite visions for a project. It is our job to find that common ground and present an end result that pleases all parties.

  • What are your hobbies outside of your work? Any guilty pleasures?

I think the best thing you can spend your money on is travel; experiences stay with you forever. I like yoga, meditation and to hit the gym as much as I can. My guilty pleasures include tacos with tons of salsa verde. You can also put poison into strawberries with chocolate and I would never notice!

  • What is your favorite restaurant, hotel and overall destination to visit?

My favorite restaurant is a classic Spanish restaurant in Madrid called El Paraguas.

From a designer perspective, The Jane in Antwerp, Belgium is always worth visiting and I most recently visited a small boutique hotel in Paris called Maison Breguet that was just lovely.  My favorite hotel and destination are a hidden place off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico called Zipolite, but please don’t spread the word! Mallorca in Spain is also always a good idea.

  • Which designers and/or artists inspire you?

Luis Barragan, Piet Boon, Carlo Scarpa, Lázaro Rosa Violán

  • If you weren’t an interior designer, what would you be?

Definitely an interior designer.

  • Topics or aspects of design you’re comfortable discussing with the media or on a panel?

F&B, Changing trends in the hospitality area, hotel room experiences.

  • What are some panels, events/conferences, colleges/professional groups and events, blogs/media you would like to participate in? Anything related to interior and hospitality design.

List three lessons, systems or business techniques you learned at previous positions in and out of the industry.

  • You need to get the right players on your team. Great ideas come from various minds, so it’s important to recruit the best team members and invest in the growth and empowerment of your team.
  • Don’t fall in love with your ideas and always be ready to alter them, especially in hospitality design where revenue plays an important role.
  • Remain optimistic while maintaining realistic expectations as to what you are capable of delivering by a specific deadline with the resources you have. Sometimes it’s better to have quality results than quantity. Finally, I would also make sure that what you are able to deliver what is written in the contract.

Name 2-3 challenges in running a design firm?

  • One of the main challenges of running a design firm today with all the constant stream of communication and information from the media is creating a space that not only makes a difference but offers some sort of engagement for the user in order to create brand loyalty. How do we as designers create an emotional link between the user and the space? We have to think about what would draw them in and how do we design an area that will become a part of their lives and experiences. There’s a lot of competition out there and you need to question if what are you offering is unique. Design? Customer service? Or both?
  • The second biggest challenge one might encounter when running a design firm is ensuring your team is happy and engaged with what they do. You want to pull out their very best work without forgetting the human component; there is nothing worse than a burned-out team and it will ultimately affect deadlines and the bottom line.
  • Build an individual identity for your brand. There is always a lot of competition within the field but creating a brand and positive reputation will go a long way.

Do you have a superpower…what makes your firm different?

With 10 global offices in various parts of the world, our designers speak over 30 languages and offer backgrounds and cultures that complement one another. We live and think outside the box, enabling us to design for every kind of client and market. Although each office has its own identity to some degree, we all live under the Wilson Associates umbrella and work as a team. 

Do you have a client onboarding process?

Having been in the business for nearly 50 years, we have a legacy for upholding the highest standard in client customer service. We analyze their needs and offer a wide range of services that make for a tailor-made and unique experience. As we’ve grown, we’ve continued to evolve and reinvent ourselves within the hospitality and F&B industries, while still maintaining that same level of top-notch service.

List the steps critical for successfully running a client project.

  • Connect with the client from the very beginning by listening to their needs, making them feel comfortable and heard, and building trust.
  • Be honest and upfront about budget
  • Set realistic timelines and don’t overpromise if you know you can’t deliver

Have you ever received a piece of advice regarding running a business that was truly valuable?

The best contribution you can make to your client is to be as authentic as possible. Stay grounded and true to who you are. Also remain open to new ideas and sources, gathering as much data collection as possible, not just digital sources like Pinterest. I find looking outside interior design exhibitions and at the real world is the most inspiring. Inspiration does not necessarily come from beauty.

What Level is Your Design Business?