How Kimpton Hotels Became Design Destinations
By Laura Bolt
Header Image
How Kimpton Hotels Became Design Destinations
By Laura Bolt
How Kimpton Hotels Became Design Destinations
By Laura Bolt
Header Image

If you’ve ever stayed at a Kimpton hotel, you might find it difficult to pin down its particular design aesthetic—and that’s just how they like it.

For Kimpton, giving guests unique experiences in each of their locations means there’s no company-wide look—something they call a “Brands of One” mindset. This strategy allows for a “handcrafted, organic approach to graphic design with all of our properties,” according to Connor Smith, senior director for Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. For guests, this translates to an earthy, rustic glam look in Aspen, or sleek, art-filled rooms in New York City, creating capsule experiences that relate to the local flavor of a hotel’s destination.

To achieve this, Smith describes how Kimpton contracts outside agencies to craft the look of each space, a “bespoke” process that “keeps things interesting and brings in fresh designs and perspectives we then use in our broader ongoing work, not only for the brand but each individual hotel.”

With 64 hotels in 34 cities, the possibilities are vast. “For a chic, upscale project on Miami’s South Beach, we hired an agency with a strong track record in the high fashion space,” says Smith. “In contrast, a mountain retreat in Manchester, Vermont requires an agency with a very different skill set.”

After the initial design is done, it’s handed over to Smith’s in-house team (a lean squad that consists of a brand manager and two graphic designers) to carry the torch for the properties going forward.

Smith says that while the strategy of bringing in outside agencies keeps “the creative juices flowing,” it’s vital to have an in-house team of “experts who are well versed in the intention of the concepts before executing them.” In fact, the institutional knowledge of Kimpton’s team is the key to the success of the design.

kimpton-inhouse-design-aiga-2.jpg

“The balance of in-house and agencies is not only efficient, it’s the key to being able to innovate,” reasons Smith. “A deeper level of brand intel is required to continually break new ground. You have to know what’s been done before. The only way to nail new design is to stay very close to the brand day in and day out—our team has a bird’s eye view of our design landscape and history.”

Even though the in-house team is always representing Kimpton, this diversified design ethos keeps them on their toes, with constant inspiration coming from far and wide. For example, when The Kimpton Cardinal Hotel North Carolina opened this past April in Winston-Salem’s historic art deco R.J. Reynolds building, the graphic designers created a quintessentially Southern “monogram inspired logo” of custom tartan, and red and emerald green typography—a subtle nod to North Carolina’s official state gemstone.

kimpton-inhouse-design-aiga-3.jpg

 

It’s an approach that seems to be working—2015 was the hotel company’s biggest year for openings yet, showing no sign of slowing down, with new locations slated for Nashville, Palm Springs, and Amsterdam. The influx of work led to a new design structure called the Concierge Program, an online system that houses all of Kimpton’s brand related guidelines, assets, and examples.

While the spirit of individuality is central to Kimpton’s mission, a central hub helps keep everyone on the same page when it comes to the bottom line. “We recognized there was a need to have a greater degree of communication between our central design office, our distributed design teams and our agency partners,” says Smith. “We collaborated with long-term partner, FINE, for insight and support as we went through the process of defining each of Kimpton’s core design elements like voice, color palettes, photography and typography.”

“Our graphic design offers our guests a richer, more authentic and playful travel experience,” says Smith. “We want every touch point of the guest experience to speak to the location’s story and inspire a more meaningful, heartfelt stay.”

“What we always hope to accomplish is marrying a combination of talents that will culminate in a design that communicates an authentic sense of place.”
“A sense of personal welcome, and a hint of playfulness or irreverence.”

Tags Article branding INitiative graphic design