Rebrand Energizes An Historic Hotel
Nashville’s Hermitage Hotel opened in 1910 as the city’s first million-dollar hotel, and the establishment has hosted everyone from presidents to celebrities. This history includes a key moment in the Women’s Suffrage movement when Tennessee’s Senators and Representatives descended upon the hotel for a special session called by the Governor in the weeks and months leading up to ratification. Because of this significance, the hotel was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the United States Secretary of the Interior. By the 2000s, the grandeur of the hotel had been diluted by the incongruous visual identity and messaging that it had developed over the years. Creative studio Mucca was asked to create a new identity that echoed the past while offering a fun, modern vision of its future.
“The hotel’s brand revealed a lot of confusion about its voice and vision,” says Mucca Senior Designer Sean O’Connor. “In fact, the identity itself was almost like a nonlinear timeline of the various eras of the hotel’s past. For example, they were using one of their early 1900s monograms paired with Hatch Show Print letterpress graphics and a ubiquitous 1960s/70s font called University Roman on their awning and scattered print ephemera.” Fixing this meant creating a sense of unity in the brand experience, and Mucca began by creating their own custom typeface called “Suffragette” as the foundation for a strong and memorable rebrand. Mucca reimagined University Roman as a sans serif display typeface, retaining the charm and novelty while creating something bespoke to the hotel. “University Roman has some characters (or glyphs) that aren’t afraid to stand out and we were actually drawn to the sentiment of this in creating the custom font which, because it was rather slim and sharp, lent itself nicely to being used in a large and unapologetic way,” continues O’Connor.
This stylish new visual universe defined by the elegant typeface was then paired with messaging that had a more down-to-earth tone of voice. For touchpoints like the door hangers, Mucca traded the mundane and expected “Please do not disturb” for “No, thanks” or “Please tidy up my room” for “Yes, please”. Local lingo like “Meet me at the Hermitage” became an opportunity to connect with the hotel’s fans through playful messaging like “Read me at the Hermitage” for its branded bookmarks. And inspired by the ornate crown molding and plaster castings that filled the hotel lobby, event spaces, and ballrooms, Mucca’s team also saw yellow as a way to add a sense of playful luxury to the brand while connecting it to its place in the suffrage movement. “As the story goes, leading up the the final vote, The Hermitage was filled with Pro-Suffragists donning yellow roses,” notes O’Connor. “Because of this, yellow became our brand’s most dominant color.”
Adds Mucca Founder and Creative Director Matteo Bologna: “It’s always great to work with brands that have a rich past – looking at them through modern eyes and giving them a new life. With the Hermitage, we were able to honor the original spirit of the building, using the right mix of reverence and irreverence to help it reclaim its moment in history. This was one of those projects where you don’t have to look for inspiration because the project itself is an inspiration.”