Customers want reliability but they also want unique, memorable experiences – places that become as much a part of the vacation as the destination itself. Hyatt, a global powerhouse with a reputation for excellent service, saw an opportunity to connect independently branded “stays” under one brand.

Having worked with us before, Hyatt CMO Maryam Banikarim asked us to help design this new “soft brand”—a thread that could tie together a collection of distinctive, independent properties. This would enable owners to have the freedom to develop something unique, without losing the assurance and purchasing power of the Hyatt brand behind-the-scenes.

“People want to have new experiences worth sharing, but they want the piece of mind that comes from Hyatt”

Maryam Banikarim, Chief Marketing Officer, Hyatt
A soft brand, well-defined
Hyatt had identified independent properties destined for the new collection. They needed a meaningful umbrella brand that could resonate with travellers, owners and developers alike. Competitors had “collection” brands, but many focused on physical hotel properties. Hyatt understands that the guest experience goes beyond the hotel, so this brand will be a collection of “stays” that each have a story to tell.
We worked together to develop a name—the Unbound Collection by Hyatt—that captured the pitch and would allow the proposition to grow. For the visual system, a passport-style stamp logo would act as a subtle yet trusted endorsement. Open-ended line illustrations invite people to fill in the rest with their imagination.

A space in the sand
Nearly simultaneously, we had a chance to put the blueprint into action. Hyatt was in the process of purchasing the Thompson Miami Beach, an existing boutique luxury property. They asked us to create an identity that would help it stand out in the Miami market, while fitting into the Unbound Collection by Hyatt.

Using the principles we’d outlined, we surfaced what made the property special and took design cues from Miami’s Golden Era. From room keys to luggage tags, a more intimate, playful Confidante brand began to emerge.

Going live just weeks after we launched the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, The Confidante reaffirms its promise.

The committees that organise Olympic Games had for many years seen the event primarily as an opportunity to put their city on the map. London, however, was already enjoying its status as a top-tier global city and didn’t need to shout so hard.

Instead, this Games was an opportunity to do things differently. If there was to be a legacy, it had to reach beyond the event. For the Games to find this level of meaning, it would need the support of more than a logo. It would need a brand: 2012.

Olympic is for everyone
Despite their grandeur, the Games of the past had been a stage for elite athletes to perform incredible feats, watched over by a narrow audience. All very impressive, but to achieve widespread participation, 2012 had to motivate ordinary people. It had to be ‘Everyone’s Olympics’.

Beyond this, the real potential was in the values and actions the athletes’ feats could inspire in the rest of us. We needed to create a movement of people doing their best in life: ‘Everyone Olympic’.

We combined the two sides of the strategy into a single brand idea: ‘Like never before’. This captured the intent for 2012 to break the Olympic mould, while inspiring people to stretch themselves in every sense.

Inspiring a generation
It was critical that 2012 engage young people. Sport in UK schools had been falling and here was a chance to create a force that could reverse that trend. We arranged discussion groups with school children and adolescents, who told us that 2012 needed to bring the Olympics off the pedestal and onto the street.

The brand needed to express this. We developed the energy line grid from which the logo was built. It was bold, spirited and dissonant, reflecting London’s modern, urban edge. In line with the legacy objective, it carried neither sporting nor landmark images.

A brand for everyone
A major feature of the 2012 brand was its flexibility. Where past Olympic logos had been very rigid, 2012 allowed other affiliated parties to make it their own.

The logo could be populated with sporting imagery, providing a way to showcase the content of the Games, or the colours of sponsors, such as the black and white of Adidas.

The rings, tightly controlled by the IOC, were embedded within rather than outside the logo – something that had been done only once before, at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico. This meant that if an organisation didn’t have permission to use them, they could simply be dropped.

“Absolutely, the dissonance was intentional”

Ije Nwokorie, Former CEO, Wolff Olins in Co.Design

More than words
2012 had a flexible expression that could belong to everyone, but the Games needed to put ‘everyone’s’ at the core of the experience.

Until now the Paralympics had been a whispered echo of the main event. Now, on our recommendation, the two were treated as equals, with the same sponsors and their own variants of a single, shared logo. The Cultural Olympiad, separated from its sporting cousin since 1948, would also run alongside the Games.

To inspire the whole country, the Olympic torch travelled throughout the UK. In a move that became known as ‘PIF’ (People In Front), the seats closest to the action at every event were reserved for the public. Sponsors and other delegates were – unusually for occasions of this stature – seated higher up in the stands.

A Games to remember
In the summer of 2012 London delivered a breathtaking Games that, for a few heady weeks, was all-consuming. While its success can’t be credited to any one factor, it was apparent that the 2012 brand helped set a special tone and atmosphere.

The UK saw huge levels of participation. All in all, an estimated six million people got involved in events, at schools and in the streets, up and down the land. Aardman Animations, creators of Wallace & Gromit, made a film with Tate that actively engaged 35,000 children in its production.

Go logo!
The 2012 logo, so controversial at launch, twinkled from screen to arena. In line with the original post-nationalistic intention, it quite literally carried the flag of every nation in the world. It was an inclusive brand in virtually every way.

Initially so maligned, the brand stood the test. The words of the original manifesto were heard many times, as key figures reiterated that this was an event for everyone, like never before. This was demonstrated most brilliantly during the Paralympics, where old notions of ‘normal’ were cast aside.

A BBC Radio 5 live poll found that the Games inspired one in five people in the UK to go and play sport. And if there can be one lasting legacy, it will hopefully be that future events build on the idea that Olympic values are truly for everyone.

When we partnered with Camelot in 2012 it was facing a paradoxical challenge. The National Lottery, which Camelot runs, was one of the largest consumer brands in the UK, raising £6.5bn that year, but it wasn’t enjoying the benefits of its success.

With a strong focus on prize money over the social causes it enabled, it felt one dimensional and archaic. The gaming world had changed a great deal, and people had little connection with the stalwart brand.

Adding ‘we’ to ‘me’
We started with an insight: if The National Lottery was more closely connected with the projects it funded, it would be relevant to a new generation of players. Nobody knew it, but while other brands talked about social causes, The National Lottery actually gave them £33M a week.

To become relevant again The National Lottery needed to be clear about what it stood for. We worked with the CEO, Andy Duncan, and the Marketing and Consumer Director, Sally Cowdry, to uncover the reason The National Lottery exists.

We proposed The National Lottery could ‘mean more, play more, change more lives’. We built a leadership story around the idea of ‘life changing’, an idea originally thought up by AMV DDBO. We loved how the idea linked individual prizes and social projects together to appeal to a new audience of players.

Digital first
The visual identity needed to make a splash, communicating ‘life changing’ and reflecting contemporary Britain. People associated the hand symbol with The National Lottery so we kept that part, making it more contemporary and digitally-focussed. The hand became the common element, while a new world of colours, shapes and animations gave each its own feel.

The National Lottery had a proliferation of games, which although gave players lots of choice, risked overwhelming them. We helped Camelot hone experience, creating its home for digital games – GameStore –  and developing new instant win designs.

Creative partners
Working with Camelot in new ways helped us achieve more together. Their design team moved into our studio to help build the visual system and brand guidelines in a cost effective way.

Three years later our partnership continued with a number of internal projects. We helped write new values, using digital tools to involve all 800 employees in the process, and we’re working with leadership to set a vision for Camelot’s next chapter.

Introducing The Grid
After developing a series of innovative new products based on customer needs, we helped Virgin Active launch The Grid. It’s a typically Virgin take on trends in movement training, designed to get people moving fast and working as a team. By fixing the activity to a grid of 2mx2m on the gym floor, large groups can take part, burning up to 600 calories in 30 minutes.
Through a series of workshops, interviews and research we created a singular proposition – ‘learn to move the tough way’. It focused the customer journey and inspired a series of neat interventions. From the introduction of the Tough Minute (a killer 60 seconds of activity to raise the heart rate) through to digital sign-in screens and environmental takeovers, The Grid was hard to miss. Launched in 29 Virgin Active health clubs over the first few months of 2015, it made an impact on members and newcomers alike.


The Virgin brand gives us a license to be unconventional. With the Grid we’ve created something exciting for members, unlike anything else”

Tim Carter, Group Brand Director, Virgin Active

Next up, The Pack
Following our work on The Grid, Virgin Active challenged us to develop a group cycle product for worldwide launch. With huge potential for integrating live performance data, the already popular format needed a revamp.

We looked at the opportunity from four different perspectives: the users, the market, the product and the business strategy. Our analysis showed that exercise is more rewarding when there’s a shared purpose, yet the Group Cycle experience, despite playing out in the proximity of other people, was essentially solitary. The new product would change this. It would be based on a simple concept, ‘together we ride’, and pit teams against each other.

From concept to experience
We partnered with Virgin Active’s marketing, technology and fitness teams to design the overall user experience. Rather than lean towards the pro-performance racers, we designed for the fun-loving ‘Exertainer’ audience, and created challenges with a typically Virgin flavour – Sumo, Speed Freaks, Hold the Line and Big Burnout.

With concepts in place, we needed to think about how it would play out in the studio. We explored the technical architecture of the fitness product and established the capabilities of the environment, working closely with Virgin Active’s design team and partners, including Deloitte Digital, Hutchisons and Horare Lea.


“I am really proud of the product. There are so many complex parts that we’ve managed to pull together smoothly, resulting in an exceptional experience”

Dael Williamson, Head of Enterprise Architecture, Virgin Active Europe
Setting the stage for success
At the heart of the new product sits the Experience Manager – a smart desktop app we prototyped that aggregates bike data into team data, and curates the screen interface, lighting and sound for a multi-sensory experience. Crucially, the Experience Manager does the legwork, freeing up the instructor to motivate teams to win Challenges.
In the final phase of our work, we specified software dependencies and created prototypes to prove that the technology stack was capable of powering a real-time, connected studio experience. We also recommended hardware for in-studio computers that would be capable of running the Experience Manager, while meeting Virgin Active’s price and platform requirements.

In a short period of time, we delivered a breadth of work with a single multidisciplinary team covering strategy and concepts, visual, interaction, game and environment design, software development, IT infrastructure planning, and go-to-market creative. Crucial to this process was the ability to work draw on the expertise of specialist Virgin Active teams.

The Pack was rolled out in eight Virgin Active clubs in May 2016, before riding into gyms across the world to change group exercise for good.

“Working with Wolff Olins, we have created a unique product which harnesses the fun and team spirit that’s so much a part of Virgin Active”

Clare Gambardella, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Active Europe

To help Expedia achieve its bold ambition, we co-created a new vision in three parts: to expand its relationship across the customer journey; to foresee and prepare for the mobile & social customers of the future; and to create new value from its core strengths.

Aligning perspectives
The first challenge was to align the individual perspectives of senior management. Working with company president Scott Durchslag and senior leaders, we brought the team together around a series of business modelling exercises. These resulted in a compelling strategy for the company and its product offering and a clear direction for the company’s culture.

We used the idea that Expedia inspires, connects, and empowers travellers to create new offers and a vibrant community. This purpose was then linked to customer insight and technology trends to support the creation of a new range of consumer brand experiences.

“Working with Wolff Olins has been an empowering experience. We’ve arrived at a real sense of purpose for our future”

Scott Durchslag, Former President, Expedia Worldwide

Improved performance
The strategy was revealed to Expedia Inc.’s 2,200 employees at an event where they all physically signed the brand manifesto. This was the start of a culture program to give employees a sense of purpose. Just one year after our thinking was set in place, Expedia’s annual revenue reached over $4 billion and by 2013 revenue had grown 17% year-over-year for the third quarter.