Mucca X The Hermitage Hotel: a fierce rebranding set in Suffragette aka a custom typeface that reclaims a piece of women’s history
The NY-based creative studio Mucca – known for its work reshaping brands across the hospitality industry including Daxton, MC Hotel, Chicago Athletic Association to name a few – provides another “visual system with substance” with a rebranding project that pays tribute to one of the most pivotal moments in the history of the US, the women’s suffrage movement.
Cemented in the studio’s cultured perspective and its agenda to avoid any faddish and rather boring trends in design, Mucca’s bold design approach for the iconic Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, is rooted in custom typography and “inaugurates a new era for the iconic landmarked establishment that has hosted everyone from presidents and celebrities to suffragettes advocating for women’s right to vote.”
Opening in 1910 as the first million-dollar hotel in Nashville, The Hermitage Hotel played a key role in the decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. It took activists and reformers nearly 100 years to win that right, and the campaign was not easy: Disagreements over strategy threatened to cripple the movement more than once. But on August 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was finally ratified, enfranchising all American women and declaring for the first time that they, like men, deserve all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship.
The Beaux-Arts style Hermitage Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee is a significant historic site. It is also one of the last buildings of its era remaining in the city’s central district. Located across the street from the state capitol building, the hotel has seen its fair share of political intrigue since it opened in 1910. Most notably, the final drama of the 19th Amendment ratification fight played out here during the summer of 1920 when Tennessee’s Senators and Representatives descended upon Nashville for a special session called by the Governor. Eventually, “The Hermitage Hotel became an infamous backdrop for political leaders in the weeks and months leading up to ratification. Because of this significance, The Hermitage Hotel was designated as a National Historic Landmark by the United States Secretary of the Interior.”
Yet by the 2000s, the grandeur of the hotel had been diluted by the incongruous visual identity and messaging that it had developed over the years.
“The hotel’s brand revealed a lot of confusion about its voice and vision,” adds Mucca senior designer Sean O’Connor. “In fact, the identity itself was almost like a nonlinear timeline of the various eras of the hotel’s past. For example, they were using one of their early 1900s monograms paired with Hatch Show Print letterpress graphics and a ubiquitous 1960s/70s font called University Roman on their awning and scattered print ephemera.”
To address the issue and reinstate the hotel’s place in history Mucca opted for a sense of unity in the brand experience rooted in custom type. Enter Suffragette.
The bespoke typeface is literally the foundation for “building a strong and memorable rebrand for the Hermitage.” Mucca reimagined University Roman as a sans serif display typeface, retaining all the charm, and novelty while modernizing it and creating something unique. The result is a surprisingly sleek character set with Deco undertones.
“University Roman has some characters (or glyphs) that aren’t afraid to stand out and we were actually drawn to the sentiment of this in creating the custom font which, because it was rather slim and sharp, lent itself nicely to being used in a large and unapologetic way,” continues O’Connor. Available for purchase via Muccatypo, the all-caps typeface features “a unique roman capital design, with its sans serif-medium contrast shapes and slightly pronounced serifs.”
Aside from the custom typeface, the bright yellow palette “inspired by the ornate crown molding and plaster castings that filled the hotel lobby, event spaces, and ballrooms” of the rebranding is another pillar of the new Hermitage Hotel identity Mucca’s team also saw yellow as a way to add a sense of “playful luxury to the brand while connecting it to its place in the suffrage movement.”
“As the story goes, leading up to the final vote, The Hermitage was filled with campaigners on both sides – the Anti-Ratification forces sporting red roses and the Pro-Suffragists donning yellow roses,” continues O'Connor. “Because of this, yellow became our brand’s most dominant color.”
The sophisticated visuals are paired with a more down-to-earth tone of voice for the brand for a complete shift to the historic hotel’s visual narrative. “Changes like these, though simple, worked to shift and rewrite preconceptions. We wanted to find a way to inject the heritage of this establishment into the updated identity,” he adds. “It’d be a shame to push it to the side and latch onto some other narrative device that has far less time-tested equity and substance.”
“It's always great to work with brands that have a rich past -- looking at them through modern eyes and giving them a new life,” elaborates Mucca founder and creative director Matteo Bologna.“With the Hermitage, we were able to honor the original spirit of the building, using the right mix of reverence and irreverence to help it reclaim its moment in history. This was one of those projects where you don't have to look for inspiration because the project itself is an inspiration, and we’re so happy to play a part in uplifting the brand’s important heritage.”
Bologna’s multidisciplinary background in architecture, graphic design, illustration, and typography and President emeritus of the Type Directors Club knows a thing or two about typography as an underestimated branding tool so we urge you to listen to his insights in Episode #45 of the One More Question podcast where he addresses why brands should own a typeface, and the mistake companies like Balenciaga are making by throwing away years of heritage to be more ‘digital-friendly.’
And just like that, through smart custom type, a contemporary tone of voice, and a stimulating yellow palette – the color that stands for freshness, happiness, positivity, clarity, energy, optimism, and enlightenment – Mucca’s rebranding manages to encapsulate The Hermitage Hotel’s pivotal place in the country’s history and fight for justice.