Design & Development

Insights: The lived experience

Images ©Forward Associates. Used with permission.

In this exclusive, Roy Westwood, Founder, Forward Associates explores the firm’s business approach in more detail. It all starts with the guest.

“As the experience economy has taken hold, the needs of the guest takes on ever greater importance. And while most projects inevitably consider the architecture, engineering, acoustics, crowd flow and design, very few consider, or truly embrace the guest experience,” observes Westwood. “Ultimately, it’s about design and build, but never about the lived experience.”

Rather than assume the design process will figure it out, Forward Associates look at things differently. Before any architect is commissioned, they model the numbers. There’s is a business-led approach, not a design-led one. 

Only a space designed with the end-user in mind can realise the full opportunity

Roy Westwood, Forward Associates

“How do you go about drawing something when you don’t know exactly what you are supposed to be drawing?” asks Roy. “Yet this is the way most modern stadia are built. Start with a drawing and only later consider how the resulting spaces will be used, let alone pay for themselves.”

Only a stadium designed with the end-user in mind can realise the full extent of the opportunity – not just the business case – but as a social and economic catalyst, as Roy explains:

“The non-matchday is yet to be cracked in the UK and Forward Associates’ work is centred on creating venues with a sense of place, able to complement the existing infrastructure of its location.”

By creating attractive spaces that work 365 days a year and fulfil the needs of the communities that live in the area, Forward Associates embed venues in the heart of their community. They are not only focused on traditional demographics – instead creating multipurpose spaces with a myriad of different uses – each designed to attract new audiences to venues. 

Their approach allows the architect to focus on their primary aim – to deliver a visionary monument – while Forward Associates are free to build the strategic business case for every space and concept within the venue. 

With the guest experience built to order, the team also offer a number of complementary services, from interior design and sales strategy, as Natasha Thiebaut, Chief Commercial Officer at Forward Associates explains:

“It’s one thing devising and delivering extraordinary premium experiences, but without a strategy in place to sell them, a critical piece of the jigsaw is missing.”

Forward Associates work with their clients, offering an end-to-end service, not just designing the product strategy and the interior design, but also advising them on brand strategy and how to set up their sales and marketing operations.

As the people behind the concepts, we have an unrivalled insight on how best to sell the products

Natasha Thiebaut, Forward Associates

“As the people behind the concepts, we have an unrivalled insight on how best to sell the products,” explains Natasha. “This includes defining the sales process, building an online presence, training the sales team, even designing state-of-the-art sales showrooms to deliver the best possible results.”

“Gone are the days of randomly cold-calling businesses. Instead, we take a consumer-led approach – using data to segment and profile potential customers and then positioning those products correctly through our marketing.”

Forward Associates has grown significantly since their formation in 2015. It has worked at The O2 and the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium as well as countless other mass population venues across the globe. The firm is currently working on Everton’s new stadium as well as a number of ASM Global venues in the US, UK and the Nordics.

“Every venue is unique but our philosophy remains consistent,” concludes Roy.

“The business model comes first and defines the design of the stadium, not the other way round. After all, the aim is to design a building that operates flawlessly and is able to fully commercialise the guest experience. We do not believe this should ever be consigned to an afterthought.”

Learn more: If you need any advice with your hospitality programme, whether its strategy, architecture and interior design, branding or sales and marketing support, Forward Associates have a specialist to help. Contact its specialists via email at:

Meet Roy and the Forward Associates’ experts at TheStadiumBusiness Summit 2023 next month. Further details and registration here.