Chicken and egg

Chicken and egg

Which is more important – to have a brand concept in place before designing a hotel, or to let the property’s design create its brand identity?

I believe most of you would think that there is not a major difference between an InterContinental, a Sheraton and a Hilton… and you are right!

With such large numbers of properties, it is nearly impossible for the major brands to consistently maintain each one at the level demanded by their quality standards. Yet behind every new project a philosophy exists about the brand’s values and how the design should reflect them. Whether or not the hotels end-up looking different from one another is up for debate… ;-))

Branded Hotel – Hilton Frankfurt Airport, The Squaire

But if you look at a multi-brand company like Starwood, it is obvious that, indeed, the design of Sheratons varies from that of Ws, Westins or Le Méridiens – which all have the same level of luxury but target different groups of guests. Since each of these hotels’ schemes is created by a separate designer, they each take on an individual style – while simultaneously reflecting their respective brand’s values. So there is an opportunity for “local flavor” to inspire a hotel’s design – in fact, that is what the operators expect.

The repetition of obviously standardised brand designs is usually found in hotels with lower levels of service and comfort, which I do not want to discuss here. And on the other end of the spectrum, many superior luxury brands have designated an exclusive set of their most exceptional properties – they are also not part of this post.

Unbranded Hotel – Le Clervaux, Clerf, Luxembourg

But then, too, there are 4- to 5-star level hotel groups where the design is not branded at all!

One of those chains is the Lindner Group (in Germany, as well as other locations in Europe), which is forming a collection composed of distinctly unusual properties, such as a hotel located at a football stadium, at a zoo, or at a racetrack.

In these cases, it is entirely appropriate that the hotels would feature interior design themes dedicated to their location! We had the pleasure of creating the zoo hotel in Hamburg, following the trend of today’s guests craving out-of-the-ordinary experiences.

So… chicken or egg? Standardized or unique?

Like the title of the blog already suggests, there is no answer.

From the perspective of a guest, I would always want to book a Hilton in Tajikistan, as I would be assured the security of a well-organized, worldwide brand; if I’m looking for a hotel in New York City or London, it might be more inspiring to find a bespoke place to stay.

But then from a designer’s point-of-view, I have to say that both versions are interesting although the question of balance always remains: how much local individuality can be adopted by a strong brand without it losing its corporate identity – and what degree of functional standards do guests expect in a stand-alone hotel?