Opened in late 2018, The Fife Arms is a new luxury, boutique hotel in the historic Scottish village of Braemar set against the landscape of Cairngorms National Park in north east Scotland. Built in the nineteenth century, the Victorian coaching inn has been restored as a 46-room hotel by its owners, renowned gallerists Iwan and Manuela Wirth, bringing together Scottish heritage, craftsmanship, and culture with world-class contemporary art. (A full detailing of the hotel’s contributors and hospitality amenities can be found here.) The identity for The Fife Arms has been designed by London, UK-based Here Design.
Through an exploration of Braemar’s visual history through the ages - supported by a local group of historians - drawing on a collection of local ephemera including catalogues from the Braemar Gathering - Here crafted an identity that has a deep connection to the dynamics of the village.
Drawing on these local points of reference including The Fife Arms’ original signage, Here created a fluid hotel logo that takes a multitude of typographic forms with an energy and playfulness that embodies the eclecticism of the hotel’s interior design and artistic collaborations.
On the surface, there is nothing original in these logos — they are all rehashings of Victorian styles we’ve seen a dozen times over. As an exercise in going method, though, to unapologetically rekindle the Victorian glory of the hotel, it’s a fairly convincing set of logos, with a few true charmers in there like the reverse italic and thin Tuscan-esque blackletter-ish ones. Others are a little heavy-handed on the quirk like the more Art Nouveau variation. But, as a collection, and in use, they become part of the texture of the hotel’s materials and interiors.
From walking maps to luggage labels and matchbooks to room books, every element of the hotel’s identity adopts a new element of this carefully considered and highly spirited identity, rooted in the authenticity of the place.
Moments of discovery and joy are created at every touchpoint, such as engraved egg scissors served at breakfast and individual books illustrated by Here for each of the hotel’s 46 themed bedrooms, telling the unique story of each room that commemorates the personalities and characters that play a role in the history of Braemar and the hotel.
Many applications are facsimiles of ephemera of the time which, again, we’ve seen before and can feel underwhelming but there are a few nice twists and turns in some of the applications.
A highlight of the project are the individual books created to house each room’s key. Although they follow the same approach of recreating graphic styles, their variety is more interesting and engaging than the more monotone note of the rest of the materials. Still, everything is very nicely executed, especially as the identity moves into contemporary applications that clash with the commitment to the era like the receipt and do not disturb sign.
Overall, the identity supports the main goal of the hotel, which is to transport its guests as close as it can to the past life of the building as a Victorian inn… all while offering Wi-Fi. If the interior of the hotel had been transformed into a W kind of hotel, then yeah, the old-timey heavy-handedness might have been too much to bear but the hospitality premise and its graphic manifestation are in sync.