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Understanding Brand Identity in Hotel Design

Updated: Jun 3

© Hotel Lobby Concept Design / Drake + Khan Design

Looking back at what we have learned about branding in Office Design, let us now turn to the vibrant world of Hospitality. In the competitive world of hotels, brand identity plays a pivotal role in defining their appeal and success. From luxurious retreats to budget-friendly stays, every hotel under a major chain brand umbrella like; Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, IHG, Sonesta, etc., must convey a consistent yet distinctive identity for every one of their "sub-brands "1. Enter Interior Designers; experts in their craft, Designers will assist the hotel brand and ownership groups and on occasion, property management in reinforcing standards, all the while creating joined experiences for all who enter.

1 "Sub-brand hotels, often referred to as ‘hotel flags,’ are smaller hotel chains that are owned by the hotel’s parent group. Each hotel flag, or brand label, represents a distinct product or service offering that caters to a particular market segment, style, or customer preference." “Understanding the Different Types of Hotels.” Wolfgramm Capital, 29 Jan. 2024,,%2C%20logo%2C%20and%20brand%20standards


The Importance of Brand Identity in Hotel Design

A hotel’s brand identity is more than just its logo or tagline; it’s the overall impression guests receive, encompassing everything from the visual aesthetics to the service philosophy. A strong "sub-brand" identity is crucial for several reasons:

Guest Expectations:

Whether luxury, upscale, midscale, or select services, it sets clear expectations for guests, ensuring they know what kind of experience to anticipate.

Trust and Loyalty: A consistent brand identity builds trust and encourages repeat visits. Guests are more likely to return to a hotel where they had a positive and memorable experience.

Market Differentiation:

© Hilton Garden Inn, Kuwait / Gensler / Godwin Austen Johnson

In a crowded marketplace, a distinct brand identity helps a hotel stand out from competitors, attracting a specific target audience.

Emotional Connection: Effective branding creates an emotional connection with guests, turning a simple stay into a memorable experience that resonates with visitors on a personal level.

How Sub-brands Build on the Hotel Groups' Branding

Consistency and Recognition

Major hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, IHG, and Sonesta offer a variety of experiences that aim to target specific market segments. These groupings maintain a balance between exhibiting the established look and feel of the hotel chain and creating stays that resonate with their target audiences. To do so, the internal Design Team provides a set of prototypical branding including core values, design guidelines, and service standards that each sub-hotel must follow. This guarantees consistent quality and experience, strengthening brand recognition and loyalty while establishing clear expectations.

Technical Aspects of Brand Integration

  1. Design Guidelines and Templates: From colour schemes to furniture styles, these detailed guidelines serve as a blueprint for Architects and Designers, ensuring that every property, regardless of location or class, aligns with the overall brand identity. Should there be interest in deviating from the "typical", the process will begin with an Interior Designer's concept, which is first passed to the client, and then makes its way to the hotel chain itself. Before any endorsement, each concept must withstand evaluation and gain approval from the hotel chain's discerning standards.

  2. Technology Integration: Consistent technology standards, such as keyless entry systems, smart room controls, and high-speed internet, are mandated across all properties. These technological aspects are part of the brand's promise of convenience and modernity.

  3. Material Specifications:

© Conceptual Material Board Design / Drake + Khan Design

Hotel chains specify materials and finishes to be used in construction and Interior Design. This includes everything from flooring to lighting fixtures, ensuring a cohesive look and feel that guests can expect across different locations. Dissimilarly, the more high-end the experience, the more possibility there is for play with such details. Take Marriott's Luxury Hotels for example; often able to be informed by the location they are set in, these opulent stays offer a more customized experience. On the opposite side of the spectrum, a Residence Inn or Four Points will stick to the prototypical templates provided by the Hotel chain.

The Role of Interior Designers in Hotel Brand Identity

Interior designers are crucial in translating a hotel brand's identity into a tangible experience. Their expertise ensures that the ownership group follows the direction provided by the Hotel Group's internal Design Team and is honored across all hotel classes. Here are some of the ways Designers contribute:

Understanding Brand Essence

Interior Designers immerse themselves in the brand’s philosophy and values. They study the design guidelines meticulously and understand the nuances that differentiate one sub-brand from another. This deep understanding allows them to creatively interpret the brand’s identity in every project.

Quality Control

Designers oversee the implementation of design elements to ensure they meet the specified quality standards. They work closely with suppliers, procurement companies and contractors to source materials, furnishings and art/accessories that match the brand’s specifications, ensuring a uniform guest experience.

Innovative Solutions

For custom builds and luxury hotels, Interior Designers push the boundaries of creativity. They create bespoke design solutions that embody the brand’s essence while offering unique experiences. This could involve custom-made furniture, exclusive art installations, or innovative use of space.

Challenges in Hotel Branding

Maintaining brand essence across various levels of hotels presents significant challenges, primarily in balancing consistency with innovation. Successful hotel brands navigate these challenges by continually updating their standards to incorporate new technologies, sustainability practices, and guest-centric features. This ensures that each property, whether budget-friendly or luxurious, upholds the core values and aesthetic of the brand while adapting to changing guest expectations and industry trends. Achieving this balance requires meticulous planning, coordination, research, and development, particularly in training staff and selecting materials that resonate with the hotel group's identity across different market segments.


Brand identity in hotel design is a complex interplay of consistency, creativity, and contextual adaptation. Major hotel chains like Hilton, Marriott, Hyatt, Choice, IHG, Sonesta, etc., leverage their strong identities across various market segments through meticulous design guidelines and the expertise of Interior Designers. Whether it’s a budget-friendly stay or a luxurious retreat, the goal is to deliver a cohesive and memorable experience that aligns with the brand’s promise. Interior Designers play a pivotal role in this process, ensuring that every hotel, regardless of its class, faithfully represents its brand while offering a unique and enjoyable stay for guests.


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