Design anarchy

Design anarchy

The Michel Berger Hotel in Berlin was built to be different. In reading the property’s story about developing a unique hotel, the passion is obvious. The following words are pulled right from the hotel’s website:

“Inside we packed it up with as much Berlin vibes and love as possible and outside there is lots to explore. 119 Rooms in an old factory building, built for Austrian carpenters, Swedish models, English rockstars, Japanese businessmen, German racing car drivers and American dudes.

From friends for friends.

Sincerely yours, the Michelberger Intergalactic Explorers.”

This place is bold. It’s audacious. It oozes vibrancy and interconnectivity with its surroundings. You get an immediate sense that something unique will happen to you, and with you, when you stay at the Michel Berger Hotel. It’s unlike any hotel I have ever seen.

And I have never been there.

In my last post, I talked about 2011 being the year of design. After writing the article, I wanted to find a hotel that had REALLY stretched its creative legs. The search was frustrating. While so many hotels and designers have built sites that are functionally solid, few were bold enough to really stand apart. Safe seemed to win more often than brave. 
The Michel Berger Hotel’s website breaks just about every rule I and others have published about hotel website design. Safe was never an option. The calls to action are hard to find. Most users will be confused, or overwhelmed, by the general presentation. Some of the most interesting content is hidden within the primary interactive graphics floating through space. Photography was not professionally done. Every staff member is featured on the site regardless of their role.   

But for all of its design anarchy, the website is able to effectively communicate the hotel’s core sustainable advantages. The site was built to appeal ONLY to the hotel’s target audience. Design for the target, not for the masses. I have shown the site to more than 100 people now. Predictably, experienced business travelers think it’s a disaster. Gen X and Y travelers looking for something different unanimously love the presentation.  

In response to my previous post, Wendy Quesinberry wrote: 

“Thank you for a great article! A dilemma that designers face is that many hoteliers want to look like every other hotel website. I have heard this phrase uttered on more than one occasion: “But it doesn’t look like a (hotel/restaurant/travel) site.” It’s less about asking your designer to stretch their creativity and more about letting go of the fear of being different.”

I never advocate designing something different just to be novel. But as the Michel Berger Hotel website demonstrates, there are infinite ways to effectively communicate your brand pillars in a unique way. You don’t have to be a Gen Y independent hotel in Europe to build a website that makes brave choices. And those choices don’t have to be made at the expense of basic usability and bookability.

Here is a link to winners of this year’s WebAwards in the hospitality space. Each website is well done and deserves praise. That said, if you were to replace the photography, copy and logo on many of the sites, couldn’t it be used for another hotel or resort? Could the same ever be said about the Michel Berger Hotel website? Food for thought.