Life at Sonder: Leveraging Data to Influence Design

Christina Higham is a Senior Interior Designer on Sonder’s Operations team. In this edition of “Life at Sonder,” Christina explains how we leverage data to influence design decisions and how she believes that listening and embracing new ideas is essential.

What’s life like on the Interior Design team, and what’s your role?

Life on the design team can be nuts (in the best way possible), exciting, and incredibly fast-paced. We are continually evaluating and iterating our creative processes to fit the business’s needs while prioritizing a high creative standard. I am blown away by the talent on my team and what they have been able to create! 

Both rooms designed by Sonder’s Interior Design team

Why did you decide to join Sonder?

At the risk of sounding like a cliche, I definitely feel like the universe put Sonder in my path. Prior to Sonder, I had been working at a large brand doing more editorial focused design. On the same day I found out my entire department was going to be laid off, I was recruited by an old colleague to join the Sonder design team (then, a team of two). I met Francis, our CEO, and was really excited by the small team’s scrappiness and his clear passion for the business. 

It was honestly a big leap of faith given at the time, but I knew there was a reason this opportunity had come into my life – and I am so glad I took it! 

How does the creative process at Sonder differ from that of a traditional firm? 

What we do is very similar to a traditional firm, except that we condense what a firm does into about three weeks! 

Data influences so much of what we do. For example, when creating our furniture assortment, we reference utilization rates across all of our units to determine quantities of each category to purchase. We also pull data from our post-stay guest surveys to identify specific elements of design guests love, and others we could improve upon.

Designed by Sonder’s Interior Design team

Where do you/the team draw inspiration from? 

Well speaking for myself, I’m inspired by many things: nature, architecture, art, fashion, the blend of high and low, old with new. I’m also constantly inspired by the design process itself and the beauty in “mistakes” – this is where the magic happens! I can’t tell you how many times something didn’t go according to plan during a project and it led to a totally new and more interesting outcome. 

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned so far?

Keep an open mind always and embrace new ideas – especially the ones that might even make you cringe at first! There have been some decisions at Sonder that I initially rejected, which ultimately ended up really working out. I feel like this shift in mindset has not only helped me professionally but also in my personal life. We’re living in a time with so many challenges, and it’s more important now than ever to listen to each other with an open mind to understand where people are coming from. 

What’s your favorite part about working at Sonder?

The people, hands down, are my favorite part. I feel so lucky to get to work with such amazing colleagues, many of whom I consider my close friends. And I love that the product I work on and create is the physical manifestation of our brand. It’s so rewarding scrolling through Sonder’s Instagram feed and seeing real guests interact with and enjoy our spaces. 

Both rooms designed by Sonder’s Interior Design team

What’s your advice for anyone looking to begin a career in Interior Design?

Find designers whose work you connect with and ask them out to coffee (maybe virtually); you’d be surprised how many people will be willing to meet up with you and share your experience. I had a great mentor I met this way before I started my career in design, and she advised me to take technical coursework (CAD, Revit). While going back to school and getting your degree is ideal, many people don’t have that luxury — but taking these foundational courses will almost definitely help you get a job. 

I also recommend thinking outside the box when it comes to a career path. Working at a firm is definitely one option but there are so many startups merging technology and design.

Favorite design tip?

Don’t underestimate the power of black – a pop of black paint on a single door, around a window frame or a railing, can be a piece of art in its own right. 

Rapid-fire questions

Modern high rise or historic townhome?

Historic townhome. 

Book or podcast; got a favorite?

Currently devouring Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow and the accompanying podcast! 

What’s the next trip you want to take (post quarantine)?

Next on my list is Bali! Given what a beach bum I am I’m shocked I haven’t been.

What’s the best travel advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t obsess over details and plans – over-planning closes you off to the magic that spontaneity brings to the travel experience! 

What do you most look forward to while traveling?

Disconnecting and feeling totally absorbed in a new place.

What’s the next Sonder you want to stay in?

Would love to do a trip to Italy and spend a few nights in Rome. These floors?! I die. 

Favorite mode of transport: plane, train or automobile?

Train! I traveled through Europe on a train, and it’s the most amazing way to see a country. I wish I did it more! 

Interested in learning more about our teams and opportunities? Check out our careers page.

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