The Woodlark team came to us in 2015, having just acquired two adjacent buildings.
Regardless of the obvious architectural challenges, the client's vision was to link them together to create Portland’s newest luxury hotel.
We were tasked with translating the rich histories of both buildings into a unified concept and a brand that married Portland’s past and future.
The story of The Woodlark starts back in 1908, when the Cornelius Hotel was built in downtown Portland, Oregon.
Completed just after the Lewis & Clark exposition, it was named after Dr. Charles W. Cornelius, a revered “Oregon pioneer and renaissance man.”
On the back of a vintage postcard from the Cornelius, we discovered the hotel once described itself as The House of Welcome (which we immediately adopted, of course.)
Right next door, Portland’s first pharmacy—the Woodard, Clark & Co—opened in 1912.
Jointly owned by William Woodward and Louis Clarke, they eventually combined their names to call Portland’s first skyscraper the Woodlark Building, and this name was emblazoned onto the marble over the building's front door.
In true form of classic pharmacies, there was an in-house soda fountain at the original counter, offering delicious treats and malts to the neighborhood.
Meanwhile, back at the Cornelius, there was an opulent Ladies' Reception Hall—an artifact of a bygone era, and a hint of what was to come.
These were just a couple of examples of the foundational aspects of The Woodlark, rich in history, color, and life.
Flash forward to 2015. The styles synonymous with Portland—beards, flannel, and reclaimed wood—had reached full saturation, and it was time for something new. Something softer, more sophisticated, and specifically more feminine than anything else in Portland.
This hotel needed to represent what Portland could become, so we planted a stake in the ground around this claim:
And we used these keywords as our guide:
When considering the wordmark, we eventually landed on Didone-style letterforms as a base to work from, a category of typefaces most often associated with high fashion—we felt this inherently brought a sophisticated and feminine touch. We elongated the letterforms to be surprising and dramatic, and we added ligatures to make it feel a bit more lush. And instead of simply calling it a hotel, we wove in the House of Welcome tagline into the lock up.
The mark was hitting all of the keywords we established, and it was feeling right to us. More importantly, the client loved it.
With the logo in place, it was time to consider how the brand would play out in the buildings.
With uneven floors and separate elevators, the two different structures posed a navigational challenge for guests—it would be easy for a weary traveler to take the wrong elevator and find themselves a bit lost, struggling to get to the right place. If at all possible, we wanted to avoid this sort of frustration.
So, we were inspired to create two related-but-distinct brand patterns that would double as navigational devices.
We looked to Portland’s natural surroundings for inspiration, reinterpreting the local foliage with hand painted water colors.
We created two organic, repeating patterns, placing one on a light ground, and one on a dark ground.
We made print pieces and wallpaper of each, keeping the dark ground consistent with one building, and the light ground consistent with the other, so they would work together as a subtle, aesthetically-pleasing guide.
As with every good hotel, The Woodlark is more than just a place for travelers—it's for locals, too.
We pitched several side stories to our client, and these are the ones that came to life:
Abigail Hall is a painstakingly restored, flora-filled cocktail bar in the old Ladies’ Reception Hall of the Cornelius. It’s named after Abigail Scott Duniway, an early Portland Suffragist who led meetings in this very room.
We designed the original logotype lock ups, and our friends over at Plastic Sunshine expanded on the brand.
We suggested that a flower shop in the lobby would be a lush and vibrant amenity for guests, and offer fragrance and color of the seasons. The Woodlark team chose Colibri to being the concept to life, and they delivered.
We also concepted an art story that supported the female-forward aesthetics of the hotel.
From the same era that The Cornelius was constructed, Portland-born artist Imogen Cunningham photographed striking botanical compositions, which we thought would be perfect for the rooms.
To contrast her stark black and white imagery, we suggested working with a contemporary female artist from Portland's bustling art scene.
To our delight, The Woodlark tapped the talented, self-taught Portland-native Maja Dlugolecki, showcasing her emotionally vibrant abstract paintings throughout the public spaces of the hotel.
And just for fun, we created a charming mosaic tile entryway dedicated to the Pacific Northwest.
Once the Woodlark opened its doors in winter of 2018, it was met with much excitement by locals, travelers, and press.
Our client was thrilled, and so were we.