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Responses by Dan Bernstein, creative partner and owner, & SMITH.

Background: The Guest brothers asked us to create a new hotel brand from scratch. They knew they wanted a small group of hotels in the United Kingdom that offered a different kind of luxury, one that felt a bit more relaxed and homely. It was as straightforward as that. Together, we created GuestHouse.

Design thinking: The group name was a bit of a no-brainer. The brothers’ surname is Guest, so the idea of taking a very British hospitality concept and adding a modern, more premium twist felt a suitable challenge to the brief.

The strategy went hand in hand with that idea too. We developed the welcoming, homely idea and set out to create “a family of wonder-filled, happy hotels in Britain’s most intriguing cities.” That meant cherry-picking cities that show the United Kingdom at its best, then, through their doors, creating a world of design and hospitality that was both surprising and delightful.

The visual identity and naming strategy shine a light on each hotel’s character within the group. Each identity champions their address and individual character with their own typographic marque and color. This gives each of them a distinctive personality while sharing enough in common to fit within the group. It means that the GuestHouse spirit runs through them all but avoids the feeling of a soulless chain. The identity strategy mirrors the electric collections of art and objects found in the common areas of each hotel.

Challenges: Balancing luxury and happiness. It’s quite a tricky combination that isn’t often seen. I think that’s why many visual identities for luxury brands end up quite serious. We tried to create a brand and a look and feel that avoided the stuffiness of luxury and focused on being creative, curious, happy and a bit more easygoing. At the same time, we had to be mindful of the group’s positioning within the sector. Hopefully, you can see that balance through the identity palette, tone of voice and the ideas we peppered into the experience.

Favorite details: Putting the visual identity to one side, we always enjoy coming up with ideas and signature moments within the customer journey that guests remember. For GuestHouse, there’s a branded bike for train station luggage pickups so that guests can wander from the station burden-free. There’s a turntable in every room to play your choice of music from a curated record collection. There are in-room tipis and instant cameras for little ones; walkers for the dogs; help-yourself pantries stocked with sweet and healthy treats; and collections and curations of art, objects and curios all around the hotel. Thinking up these ideas and experiences that fit in with the brand’s values helps build a complete experience for the guest—rather than just creating a brand identity in isolation.

Visual influences: One of the challenges of the job was to create a group of hotels that felt like they were from the same family but not identical in their look and feel. To help inspire us, we searched for intriguing and eclectic groups of “things” that were held together by a common thread. We found inspiration in art gallery communications, magazine covers, book design and even toy packaging. We were keen not to take any visual inspiration from the hotel sector. It was a good starting point to create a group of hotels that felt precious and collectible.

Specific project demands: We had a bit of a double-edged sword. Because it was an entirely blank canvas—we were responsible for branding, naming, identity, print, digital and experiential—it made some aspects of the project easier and some harder. As it was a fresh start, we could explore the identity creatively to see where the client wanted to pitch themselves. On the other hand, as the brand was always going to be a group of hotels, we had to design with foresight and flexibility so the identity could adapt to additional properties down the line.

andsmithdesign.com

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