Design, with sustainability in mind, for Mercury Inn
Formerly known as The Wild Iris Inn, the house at 273 State Street has been a place for travelers for over 20 years. New owners Tim Karu and Jacob Krueger began a complete overhaul of the property in late 2013 and reopened it this winter as Mercury Inn. Tim and Jacob aim to provide modern accommodations with special attention to Portland’s proud local ethos—all with an eye for sustainable living. The name, Mercury Inn, comes from Tim and Jacob's shared enthusiasm for Greek and Roman mythology. Mercury—the god of travelers, luck, commerce, and poetry—made the perfect namesake for the inn and their vision of it. With a basis in the characteristics that distinguish Mercury Inn's physical spaces (clean lines, bold art, and mid-century pieces fill the updated Victorian era house), we worked with Tim and Jacob to ensure the brand materials reflected their goals for the inn, then created logos, a website, and supporting materials that reinforce the inn's modern and sustainable approach to lodging.
Morgan DiPietro, lead designer on the project, describes the process:
How did the design team approach the process?
Sean led brand strategy and Sarah and I contributed initial concepts. Early on we had a few meetings with Tim and Jacob's interior designer, Tyler Karu of Landing Design + Development (she's also Tim's sister), to get a sense of her vision for the inn's decor. She brought in early concepts for color swatches and furniture style examples that we then incorporated into our brand moodboards. We also looked at other hip hotels in metropolitan areas such as The ACE Hotel, The Jane, and Washington Square Park Hotel.
What other considerations went into the brand positioning?
The final moodboards reflect a modern and contemporary look/feel with the use of clean geometric lines, gray scale color palettes and sans serif typefaces. To honor the rustic, maritime feel of Portland and bring a handmade quality to the brand we also included hints of gently weathered textures and woodgrains. Tim and Jacob also wanted to reference mercury, the metallic liquid element. Therefore we paired our subtle silver grays with a deep purple for the logo and an acidic chartreuse accent color. Copper and cobalt hues round out the palette. The combination of all these elements creates a simple, hip, unique and approachable place for guests. This all speaks to Mercury Inn's eye for contemporary style and quality with a personal touch.
Tell us about the house icon?
During initial concepts we liked the idea of using a house icon in the logo because it precisely depicts what Mercury Inn is and looks like for potential guests. The icon is a simplified line drawing of the house that is meant to feel friendly, welcoming, and pleasant to look at. It can be used with and without the wordmark, primarily at smaller sizes on collateral. It's not meant to be large and in your face, but rather thoughtful in placement—contributing to Mercury's clean white space and minimal aesthetic. Tyler included some bold art, patterns and color combinations that give the inn a great whimsical and fun tone. The house icon plays off of this as well—it's well considered and simple, but never too serious. We also created some stamps with the house icon to add a handmade feel to collateral.
What about the logo?
The logo uses Mission Gothic and Klinic Slab. Mission Gothic is inspired by antique signage in San Francisco's Mission District—when letters were handpainted on wood and glass. Klinic slab is a contemporary, versatile slab serif that is a great mix of personality and functionality. Together this type combo has a clean modern feel, yet isn't so serious that it can't jive with the approachable and pleasant house icon.
How did you approach the printed pieces?
The business cards, postcards and stationary use a strict color palette of black, silver/gray and white. These pieces were designed to match and compliment the inn's boutique feel—using black and silver feels premium and thicker paper stocks provide a richness in material. The business cards are letterpressed by George Graves of GDGRAVES and give that tangible crafted quality we like to reinforce. Among all the black and gray hues, we chose a chartreuse envelope for stationary. We think this vibrant envelope is much more fun to receive in the mail compared to a regular old white one!
Sustainability and supporting the local economy are important to Mercury Inn. Were there any choices in the design process to ensure sustainable materials, practices, or keeping production local?
We certainly wanted to support and echo the sustainable methods and practices that Tim and Jacob were implementing at the inn. For collateral we used recycled, FSC-certified materials everywhere we could. Graeme did a great job sourcing sustainable papers for us: business cards and postcards are printed on French Paper Co. stock, which is completely hydro-powered. The letterhead uses Neenah paper which is 30% PCW. Envelopes are also 20% and 30% PCW. And lastly, to keep things local, we printed postcards and letterhead with Westbrook-based print shop, Full Court Press.