Building an Identity, Branding an Experience
By Heath Harris, Senior Art Director
We recently launched a new brand identity for our friends at Angad Arts Hotel, a boutique arts hotel in St. Louis’s Grand Center. The process of crafting something as intimate as the hotel’s look and feel meant we got to engage in some fascinating conversations with its Executive Managing Director, David Miskit. Getting to know the ins and outs of the hotel reminded me of what it’s like to get to know a new friend; slowly, Angad began to reveal its identity. But before we delve into what exactly that process entailed as well as who Angad is today, let’s take a step back and examine what we mean when we say identity and why it’s so important.
Whether person or brand, identity shapes who we are by providing focus and meaning to our experience. It helps inform our decisions and communicate our intentions to the world. It’s kind of funny: Identity creates distinction between individuals while providing common connections.
While identity is unique to each person, it is strongly influenced by outside factors. Family, friends, and culture are all powerful forces that give us examples to either follow or reject. People will often try out different identities over time. Anything from the cultural climate to coworkers can push or pull us in new directions. Ultimately, it is this mix of inner character and outside influences that build identity.
So, what’s the point of going through this complex process? How do we benefit from identity?
Knowing who you are and why you do the things you do can be challenging sometimes. Our identity brings us back to center and reminds us what matters. This is true for both individuals and brands. A brand can be a big, unwieldy organization. Without a strong identity to reference, individuals within companies may go in different directions — leading to confusion internally and dwindling recognition externally.
When a brand takes the time to consciously develop their identity, it shows. From customer service to marketing, remembering why the brand exists in the first place can make a huge impact. Daily decision-making is more efficient when employees are empowered through a clearly defined brand identity. A brand is more recognizable and relatable when guided by a set of standards that spell out what it looks, sounds, and acts like. Which takes us back to the Angad Arts Hotel.
When New Honor Society set out to create a brand identity for Angad Arts Hotel, our first task was to get to know the people behind the brand. We wanted to know why they’d decided to undergo a multi-million-dollar renovation to turn a 1929 theater into a one-of-a-kind immersive arts destination. Who was this new cultural amenity for? What was the bigger picture?
Their answers ended up giving us a lot to work with. Angad turned out to be a truly thoughtful client, with a vision in place and the right people to pull it off. They knew that the arts scene in St. Louis had matured to the point where it needed a place to act as the heart of the community. Angad Arts Hotel would be more than a place to stay for the night. It would provide a home away from home for artists, their fans and patrons. A place to bump into the performer before the show you were about to go see them headline. A place to go to be surrounded by every medium imaginable, from printmaking to pop-up opera performances.
The identity began to take shape through a series of conversations, research and site visits. We knew we had to convey an ever-changing, dynamic operation. It would be a place that would never look or feel exactly the same way twice. The visual identity and tagline would have to work hard to capture that energy.
Specific design choices were made to frame the fluid nature of the Angad brand. These choices involved balancing dueling needs. We were designing for Angad, so obviously the logo and supporting imagery had to showcase its brand. At the same time, Angad acts as the stage — the platform — that the arts play on, so the vision had to have the arts at center stage as much as the hotel.
As with any contemporary logo, the design needed to be flexible. It had to work on everything from a 50-foot tall electronic blade sign down to an embroidered bath towel. In addition, it had to allow the Arts in Angad Arts Hotel shine through. Angad could not overpower the creative work the public was there to take in. Plus, it had to be colorful. A big part of Angad’s experience involves color, including how people choose their rooms.
The solution was a simple, confident sans serif typeface paired with a series of vertical rectangles. The type was crisp and clear, and wouldn’t overpower the surrounding art or become dated over time. The rectangles gave us a place to play. These shapes can be rearranged on a grid based on the arrangement of windows on the façade of the building. Depending on the viewer, the concept is abstract enough that the rectangles may be perceived as windows, frames hanging in a gallery, or something of their own imagination. And, like the hotel, the colors inside are ever-changing.
The logo, name, and tagline — Stay Colorful — all express Angad’s identity. It is a unique place whose identity will continue to grow along with its place in the St. Louis arts scene. As it uses its brand to reinforce its mission, the experience will become sought out. A brand identity is a mix of interior variables and external influences. In the case of Angad, it is a mix of colorful characters and the best of contemporary art.