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As the adage goes, art gives voice to that which is unspoken, and this year’s Sleep Awards saw three very different hotels take contrasting approaches to their graphic design. The overall winner was Citizen M, Amsterdam.

Within a very competitive and progressive industry, hotels’ artwork – from illustrations through to font choice – has to work extremely hard. It needs to communicate brand values as well as convey the property’s look, feel and experience as translated into its website, brochures and the decor itself.

A judge at the awards, I hosted this category and this functional factory-built property in Amsterdam airport whose identity is intended as the antithesis of corporate (Citizen M) stood out as the strongest contender. Its illustration were especially imaginative and out-there, and conveyed the brand values well – as an all-things to all-travellers kind of hotel.

What grabbed us about this hotel’s graphic design is the directness in conveying its agenda –no-nonsense budget bedrooms big on personality. The impression that it’s a prefabricated no-frills functional hotel with a sense of fun is echoed in black-based signage with an injection of fantasy in ‘mobile citizen’ characters. An elephant-headed businessman, a media-linked fashionista – these images are visible on ephemera, in VJing activity, and as artwork in the hallways. The hotel’s language extends to online activity, paperwork, quirky soaps and uniquely in Citizen M’s case, a ‘Declaration of Intent’ in the entrance – all successfully conveying that Citizen M promises to do what it says on the tin all the while putting smiles on guests’ faces.

The other nominees included a sleek design hotel in Lisbon that required sophisticated and contemporary graphics consistent with its innovative architecture style and minimalist interior (Fontana Park Hotel), and a Southport classic reborn that wanted to convey an image that is stylish, comfortable and timeless (The Vincent Southport).

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