Jay Schwartz has created the brand identity for The Jaffa, opened in the 4,000 year old port city of Jaffa. To create a brand identity for a new hotel in an ancient space is a journey through history and unexpected discoveries: archaeologically, directionally, and individually, and for Jay Schwartz, who developed all the branding for this internationally-anticipated destination, it was the most intimate project of his career.
More than a decade in the making, this project was spearheaded by real estate developer Aby Rosen and his firm, RFR Holding, an undertaking that is one of his most personal and unique ventures to date. Architect John Pawson and historian Ramy Gil painstakingly breathed life back into the historic spaces, and Major Food Group was brought on to oversee the venue's two restaurants.
Originally, RFR tapped Jay Schwartz, founder and Chief Creative Officer of IdeaWork Studios, to create the food and beverage branding. Through a highly collaborative effort between IdeaWork and the rest of the team, Don Camillo, a classic New York Italian restaurant vis-à-vis the Mediterranean, and the familial Golda's Deli were born, with an intention to tell an authentic New York City story in Israel. From a branding perspective, this meant stand-alone identities for the restaurants; however, a year ago, the course changed as the property underwent operator changes. Suddenly, a seismic shift in branding was needed.
"For me, this was the first of several unexpected developments on this project," Schwartz said. "The hotel now needed a name, a brand story and identity, a full suite of everything. This project has been profoundly challenging and equally fulfilling. There is an abundance of historical inspiration. The opportunity to design branding and collateral for so many different and distinct outlets (without them all looking the same) was indeed a challenge. The converse was also challenging - telling a cohesive visual story without having everything look too disparate."
The look and feel of the hotel's brand - luxurious, elegant, and refined - stands apart in Israel. Seeking inspiration from the ancient land, including its most famous export, the Jaffa orange, Schwartz tapped into the history of the region, with a golden palette of browns, coppers, and creams, but with a restraint that works seamlessly with the architecture and interior design. "I was definitely influenced by John Pawson's design elements. Ultimately, I wanted to create a brand with a sense of place - a brand you couldn't pick up and put somewhere else. This had to be. At every touchpoint, I wanted each guest to know they were somewhere truly special - in Jaffa."
The brand identity work is voluminous: projects included all elements for the hotel and restaurants, as well as Sheshbesh (the lobby's backgammon bar), The Pool, and The Chapel (originally a church, it's transformed as the hotel's nightclub and event space). Schwartz created every single facet of the branding from the typography - a hand-altered type, which has a heritage that's clean and modern, yet is rooted in history - to the logos, signage, coasters, wine labels, hangers, laundry and hair dryer bags, amenity packaging, pens, all business forms, the hotel compendium, menus and menu covers, keycards, do not disturb signs, water bottles, shoe horns - all client touchpoints - which weave together to tell a visual story that is truly unique to this one-of-a-kind destination. "The Jaffa is unrivaled exclusivity in the region, so the visual story for all of these spaces convey the Israel-meets-New York story: minimalist in design, disciplined elegance, and effortless sophistication," Schwartz stated.
There is an elevated authenticity that Schwartz brought to the project, beyond his expertise in hospitality and luxury branding. "Unbeknownst to the rest of the team, Hebrew was my first language, my family is from Israel - the look and feel of Israel is embedded in my DNA," explained Schwartz. "Interestingly, I was hired because I am an expert in telling a New York brand story; I have a decade of experience living and working in the city. This was originally supposed to be a New York story in Israel. Now, as boutique property, we're able to tell an Israeli-New York story. My deep connection to and experience with the area, really made this a personal project, helped shape the brand, and was incorporated into all of the materials.
"There is a level of kinship - kismet, if you will - with this client and partners, with the region, the history, that is unparalleled to any other project I've worked on before. The artistic sensibilities of all the players made for an experience that was truly collaborative, truly symbiotic. Together, we sweated the small stuff, the details that make this deeply personal for each and every one of us. It's a story of place - heritage, passion, and connection."
Photos: Courtesy of IdeaWork Studios