2020 | Oru Hub HotelInterior DesignGraphicDigitalEnvironmentalStrategicInterior GraphicsWayfindingDigital ProductWebsiteBrandingPrinted MediaService DesignUser Research

Strategic, environmental, graphic and digital design

The project where everyone loved the concept.

It was a truly interesting process. Honestly, for me, the year we worked in partnership with Velvet and the Nobe team was perhaps the most interesting time in my life. An explosion!

Igor Bernovski, Oru Hub Hotel

How do you design a hotel for the future?

You need to start from a clean slate. You need to change things when things are still good. When things have already gone downhill, the change comes too late. You can spend a little bit of money on some small things but the effect will go unnoticed. Analysing the hotel market, we reached a clear conclusion together with the client: we need to go back to zero, start our journey from scratch. 

We had the ability to manage the entire project and approach it as a whole – if you want something new, different and good which would also feel like a wholesome entity at the same time, you need to give your entire project to one team who communicates with subcontractors and keeps the vision on track. 

It all began with a single wish

What even is or should be a modern hotel that the guest really wants to visit, and not just escape from as quickly as possible? Together we reached a conclusion that in a situation where work and holiday travel have become more and more mixed, the entire environment needs to be more organic, homely and friendly. 

The character of travel has changed. Work travel now incorporates recreation, and holidays incorporate work. Often, work travel also includes travelling with one’s family. The functions are overlapping and the environment needs to support all of that.

#1 Understand and use empathy 

As with every project, our first step is to understand what is really needed. In order for change to happen in the right direction and to fulfil its purpose, we need to properly and deeply understand why we are implementing the change. And for whom. The only way to guarantee this kind of understanding is to employ empathy and to define the needs of the target group as clearly as possible. This helps an organisation to see their everyday activities in a fresh light and on a new level. 

We started the process by looking into the needs and behaviour of travellers. To learn about the latter, we conducted 18 interviews with 20 different people from different nationalities and ages on their travel needs and preferences. The information gathered became our main source of insights. 

The interviews helped us understand the frequency and purpose of travel, the behaviour during travel, and people’s preferences regarding accommodation. We also visited many hotels in Europe to gain a stronger understanding on what works and what does not.

“We believe that design has the power to make human lives better and we believe in the goodness of creating clarity.” 

If you do not get to the actual heart of the problem or situation, you run into a deadlock and create a wrong thing for your client.

#2 Trust your team

If you understand that everything needs to change – from architecture and service concept to tea cup saucers – then how do you make your client trust you that a design agency is the correct partner for coming up with all of that? The client invests in their service or product a lot more than they invest into the work hours of Velvet but our work can jeopardise the entire investment if we work on a wrong thing or screw something up. 

This is why we ran our concept through CIVITTA consulting and data analytics matrix to see if it is actually profitable or not. The results were great and assured us that our work is based on real knowledge and facts. After this it became clear that the client listened to us and trusted us 100%, only adding momentum to the flow of the project.

We worked side by side with them for nearly two years. In a case like this the personal blood types need to match – Velvet came and won us over with their attitude.

Kristel Mäenurm, CEO of ORU

#3 Accept the change

ORU’s goal was to create something new and different which would match tomorrow’s needs. The entire team understood that using newer or more modern “decorations” was not enough. You need to rethink everything, take it apart and create a new identity for yourself both mentally and visually. The need for a change needs to come from the inside. 

#4 Have a strong concept

After confirming the new direction, our biggest task was to describe the concept of the new hotel in as much detail as possible, and then draw it up as a project. Our hotel concept was exactly what the client had envisioned.

We were inspired by a format where all family members are involved in hosting, and where you, as a guest, become a temporary member of that family. As a guest you will feel as if visiting a good friend, not a space that is designed for a temporary visit.

Oru Hub Hotel is place where spaces that are designed for relaxation and for spending time together are stacked with books which you would really like to read, and with board games that your children would really like to play. There is an atmosphere which actually encourages you to do that.

As if you were visiting your friends

As a guest of Oru Hub Hotel you feel as if you are visiting friends whose home is the hotel. In order to create this atmosphere we broke some age-old traditions like having a check-in receptionist who talks to the guest across a high reception desk, as if from behind a barrier. At Oru, the arriving guest can sit at the same desk as the receptionist and be welcomed from the same level. Guests also have access to a room where they can iron their shirts, find baby diapers, or if necessary, sort out jump leads for their car. And if the guest wants to have some downtime, there is a yoga room in the hotel for some peace and quiet. 

#5 Add details. Do not cut any corners!

Everything a guest sees and experiences at Oru Hub Hotel, everything they interact with, is highly thought through. All details have been minutely designed. Our goal was to create a new type of guest experience where the guest is supported by the environment at every moment. The guest is never alone because the brand communicates with them. 

Most of the public spaces share the same problem: the space communicates through the material used but not through the tools of communication. At Oru, the hotel communicates with the guest also through the latter, be it signage or room graphics. 

Make your problems work for you

If a guest tends to worry about the smaller size of the room, our solution is the following: the room provides you with a fabulous sleep experience but everything else takes place in the shared areas on the hotel’s first floor – here are areas for cooking, relaxing, working, reading and board game playing. A room is for sleeping but all other activities wait for you in a much cooler space than in some cramped bedroom. 

Keep everyone on the same page

Oru project engaged all different departments of Velvet. All different design disciplines were employed – with a project like this we were able to use the knowledge of our full house, and of all departments we have:

  • Strategic Design
  • Interior Design 
  • Graphic Design 
  • Content Design 
  • Digital Design 

#6 Produce it like you mean it

Every project we undertake in Velvet needs to reach production phase and managing the latter has always been one of the crucial elements of our service. Engineering way of thinking is becoming more and more important in the design field since everything is becoming automated and digitalised with precision thinking becoming more integral part of the services created.

When creating Oru Hub, we were not just drawers. We intervened in our client’s business processes, developed a new strategy and finally also printed the business cards. The growth of our client’s business was influenced by our decisions. Our goal was to use creativity and design for giving a boost to the life quality of people and a business.

#7 Don’t forget sincerity and love

To design something sincere is perhaps the most difficult thing. We created Oru Hub in such a way that we felt was amazing. The client did the same. Sometimes when you put your heart and soul into a project that meets with highly rational criticism you can feel as if someone spat into your soul. This project allowed us to create and work sincerely. We believed in the process and it can be seen and felt in the result.  

Formula for success:

  1. Building trust on both sides.
  2. The right team – some left, some joined. The right people stayed.
  3. The decision maker (the final risk taker, the owner) sitting at the same desk and making the right decisions. 

In conclusion

Now that Oru Hub Hotel is ready we can proudly say that this project truly re-designed not just the rooms but also the mindset of the staff, the owners and the partners we met along the way. 

Oru is a perfect proof of how a strong concept with an empathy-first design can create something people fall in love with at first sight and through first experience. The result has already awarded Oru Hub Hotel with an extra star and transformed it into a four star hub-hotel.

Our hotel has solidly taken up place among the top 10 best hotels of Tallinn. The future is not set in stone but one thing I am certain of is that we have created a gorgeous thing.

Kristel Mäenurm, CEO of ORU

Team

  • Kristian Kirsfeldt Main concept and execution, branding, interior graphics, signage & print materials
  • Mart Lankots Main concept and execution, production supervisor
  • Kadri Ann Mikiver Main concept and execution
  • Kreet Käärma Web design
  • Raik Ilves Technical lead
  • Rainer Kull Development
  • Merili Palmkroon Development
  • Kadri Pukk Wayfinding
  • Alan Reiss Production
  • Siim Tikk Interior graphics, signage and print materials
  • Sofía Vega Anza Service design
  • Pärtel Vurma Service design
  • Kätlin Ölluk, Aet Kiivet, Kristin Boginski (Nobe Design) Interior design
  • Edith Mihkelson (Skillmill) Bistro and service concept
  • Maarja Karmin, Helin Naska (Meta Advisory) PR
  • Liisi Kruusimaa, Ander Ojandu (Civitta) Feasibility study
  • Joonas Veelmaa, Oksana Bondar, Jason Mario Dydynski Copywriting
  • Ken Oja, Tõnu Tunnel Photographers
  • Kalmer Rookman (Medeo) Construction
  • Veiko Krautman (Conum OÜ) Construction supervision
  • Kristel Mäenurm, Igor Bernovski, Siret Dudareva, Aleksandra Potapenko, Ott Uude Oru Hub Hotel

Awards

  • Estonian Association of Interior Architects Annual award 2020 in cooperation with NOBE Design