Established in 1983, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company was formed after acquiring the Ritz-Carlton Boston (opened in 1927) and the trademark to use the name in the United States after a few decades where the Boston hotel and two other Ritz-Carltons in the U.S. had closed. The management company has grown from that one hotel in Boston to 89 hotels worldwide in 29 countries and a staff of 35,000 employees. Beyond hotels, Ritz-Carlton also manages, and offers under its brand name, spas, golf courses, residences, and luxury meeting and conference spaces. In September, the company introduced a revised logo and new “brand voice”. No design credit given.
The move to clarify, simplify and amplify the luxury brand’s identity comes after a decade of brand evolution and has been created to purposefully maintain the iconic luxury hotel company’s position with a new generation of guests globally. This is the first time in the 32 year history of The Ritz-Carlton that any changes have been made to the revered lion and crown.
I don’t stay at enough — and by “enough” I mean ever — Ritz-Carltons to have a sense of the brand and in the genre of luxury hotels I don’t think the name would have even come up in my mind. With so many luxury hotels out there I don’t know if Ritz-Carlton stands out as one of its iconic representatives. But, again, I’m not the target audience. The change in the logo is fairly cosmetic, trading one serif for another and cleaning up the lion/crown icon. Both changes are positive and meet the goal of adding a sense of refinement. The new wordmark looks more like that of a fashion label and is more elegant than before although it could still be any other serif and it wouldn’t make much of a difference. The icon is the element that benefits the most as all the lines have been cleaned up and made more curvaceously dramatic while the crown has gotten sharper and more regal. It’s also now perfect for foil stamping. The ratio between the two elements is much better now, with the icon being smaller and subtler — a move that could only be pulled off with a better drawing.
In 1920s Boston, affluent homeowners imported the glass for their windows from Europe. Something special happened when that glass met the Boston air, changing it from clear to blue. Because of this happy accident blue became a status symbol in 1920s Boston. When the first Ritz-Carlton in Boston made the decision to install a blue chandelier in its ballroom, the rare color became an instant status symbol. Blue has always been interwoven into the fabric of The Ritz-Carlton story. But the color, as well as the story of its origin, remained in the background, serving the brand quietly. In the process of refreshing the brand voice by updating the color alongside the logo, what emerged was a new color for the brand. The new ‘memorable’ blue reinforces the promise of consistent quality, excellence and the promise of beautiful memories.
The new emphasis on the color blue is fine and perhaps a little overblown in its introduction. Even if it’s not as iconic — or even has the potential to become as iconic as Tiffany’s blue or, heck, Holiday Inn’s green — it’s better to have a rallying color than nothing at all. The few prototype applications shown in the video don’t add up to much of a “brand voice” as promoted in the release and the video. It’s all nice and pretty but there is nothing particular or distinctive enough about it to feel like the turning point in the evolution of the Ritz-Carlton brand.
Thanks to Glenn Sakamoto for the tip.