“Well-designed signage and environmental graphics are vital in any environment, but especially important in hospitality,” said Irene Yu, lead creative strategist/architectural designer with Oakland, CA-based architecture and interiors firm Arcsine. “Signage is an extension of a hotel’s brand identity and is a big opportunity to build on the hotel’s brand values and personality. For guests visiting unfamiliar places, good signage is the first sense of hospitality they encounter. Outside of learning about your hotel online and before a guest experiences your stellar service, your signage is your first introduction to your guest, and first impressions do matter. Ultimately, signage throughout a hotel should be an entire system of wayfinding and informational tools that help guests instantly connect with a place.”
At Extended Stay America, signage is extremely important. “Signage is critical to the strength of the Extended Stay America brand and the functionality of the hotel,” said Terry Atkins, VP of marketing communications. “Exterior signage creates a branded line of sight to our hotel from the highway for travelers to follow. Interior signage brands the overall experience. Room identification and public space/directional signage is of utmost importance for wayfinding and safety.”
While a hotel’s signage can extend the brand’s image, Yu warned not to overdue it. “It’s important here to make a distinction between cohesive branding and overly branded environments,” she explained. “Cohesive, consistent and accurate brand elements are priorities for any brand, but in a hotel environment, it strengthens the ability of a guest to self-navigate and feel at ease in a new environment. A hotel runs the risk of being an overly branded or corporate environment when the signage is too similar. A system of signage should have the same branded elements, but don’t have to be exactly the same. Brand consistency is key, but with signage, making sure that materials and placement complement the environmental design should also be a top priority. When in doubt—consult your brand guidelines.”
She said that when her firm is designing the signage for a property, the team always considers the hotel’s brand identity and how to translate its core values through the signage. “Branding is about guest perception of a brand, and through the appropriate language of materials, signage can tell a story beyond just a logo or room number,” she said.
Personalizing a property’s signage is also becoming a trend. “We have elected to personalize with brand elements,” said Atkins. “Signage is an element that is fairly easy to personalize with brand elements, so the trend has been in that direction, especially in higher-end segments with additional complexity and individualization.”
For its part, when Arcsine did design work for the Dream Inn in Santa Cruz, CA, personalized elements were incorporated, such as door signs that were in the shape of miniature surfboards. “Signage is visual communication, and personalized or custom signage further reflects the hotel’s personality and aesthetic,” said Yu. “More and more hotels are infusing local art and culture into the guest experience, and as this new normal drives design, it also influences how signage fits into the environment.”
She continued, “A good sign is now more like an ‘informational accessory’ that is just as important as any other design element within a space. There will always be required signage that is inherently generic, but many companies are now producing better code-compliant signage options.”