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Challenges of Brand Differentiation

Updated: Apr 13, 2020

In capturing today’s market of savvy travelers, design professionals are challenged by the numerous hotel brands that have emerged. With a focus on brand identity, creating authenticity while addressing the particular design standard of that brand, requires a balance between what the brand represents and the client’s design vision. Ultimately, the creation of a memorable guest experience, both personal and unique, is the goal in bringing a traveler back to that brand. 


This month we’re chatting with a trio of pros that have all helped create brand prototypes, and are well versed at the art of bringing new concepts to life. Plus, they’re all masters at balancing brand demands with owner wants. Here’s how they maneuver this complicated thicket.


Interview with Jacki Arena, Designer and Owner of

JAI - Jacki Arena Interiors


How do you learn the particular needs and requirements of a brand and what differentiates that brand?

We study the brand standards and requirements at the start of each project. We find that updates and changes to prototypes can be usually quite extensive. It is typically within these standards that the brands note their key identifying elements which must be included in the design; sometimes very subtle from brand to brand, others more obvious and recognizable. 


How does this impact your design process and choices? We start with brand standards and then take the client’s vision and see how closely they fit together. When they fit well, we stay close to what the prototype suggests. If there is conflict with the vision, we get into modifying and customizing while making sure we remain aligned with both party’s direction.


When designing a new prototype or location for a brand, how do you anticipate technology changes? A lot of that review leans heavily on the brand and the research provided by the brand. A company such as Hyatt has studied the user of the specific brand. Then we get familiar with the most current products from our different manufacturers.


What elements are important to the design now, that was never on the radar before? In the case of Hyatt, they require lit bed bases, so we needed to retrofit a motion sensor for guest safety when getting up in the middle of the night. Additionally, mirrors in the bathroom are no longer just lit, but also have nightlights, clocks and Bluetooth built in.


How do design elements trickle down within the different brands- how long does it take a trend to go from Luxury to Upscale?

It doesn’t take long today because we are all exposed to so much instantly. We tend to keep our designs very classic and timeless, but also current, so the trends won’t impact our client’s ROI.


What design elements are most important to your guests? It’s all about convenience and