From The Creative Director:
Better Storytelling in Real Estate & Hospitality

BY: MICHAEL BOAMAH APRIL 12TH, 2018

Watson & Company builds brands that connect people to places and places to people blending strategy, naming, art direction and design to create elevated brands that connect to the increasingly sophisticated audiences. The projects they work fall in the category of luxury, but Watson & Co believes that there is no greater luxury than a sense of place. Their clients include Four Seasons, The Ritz-Carlton, Hudson Yards, The Dean, The Marlton and The Ludlow Hotels, Andrea Rosen Gallery, Annie Leibovitz and Helmut Lang, among others.

Brand Design for The Ludlow Hotel, by Watson & Co

British born creative director, William Watson, brings eighteen years of experience in Design, Fine Art, Real Estate and Hospitality to the design/branding agency. When approaching real estate clients, Watson and his team believe that there is so much more potential than the usual dose of touting “luxury” and plugging the amenities in a sunset lit tableau.

Says William, “When it comes to real estate, you have to remember it is the biggest purchase we as consumers ever make, and the branding and advertising standard is way behind that of other luxury goods and services. That’s something we’re changing. We’ve been focusing on not just the intellectual and factual relay of information that is so prevalent in the sector, but on our emotional connection to places and homes. I fundamentally believe there is no greater luxury than sense of place and the feeling of belonging. How we create that feeling can be something as tactile as beautiful stitching down the spine of a soft bound cotton book, the gentle, ambient animation of a sheer curtain moved by an ocean breeze in a digital ad, or the lighting and custom scent in the lobby of a hotel or retail experience.”

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but everyone can appreciate something done well.

Hospitality and developer clients come to Watson and Co not just to establish the visuals and an identity but to create a character or set of characters and then tell a narrative. That give the brand legs and a bigger toolkit to develop the marketing as a project matures. He says “It’s the potential for growth. This is done by simplifying complex ideas, creating really elevated brands and getting them out in the world in highly engaging ways.”

When you looking through their portfolio, one immediately perceives their work as “chic”, but the projects do not blend together or seem unified by a look. Asked if that intimidates potential clients, William says, “Absolutely not. Style is not a solution; the brands we create are diverse and bespoke because no two clients are the same. We focus on solving the problem first, and if we feel the brand needs to connect to a certain audience, then a certain style might become a byproduct of that solution.”

Window display design for Shigeru Ban's Cast Iron House by Watson & Co

One thing that does play a big role in all the branding is the working with top tier photographers and artists, talent that one would normally see in editorial or fashion work. “This goes back to my point on style. If you employ one singular aesthetic point of view you are not necessarily solving the problem. I do, however, believe that all brands, whether it be a toothpaste or a car company, can be elevated and aspirational regardless of the price point. Everyone can appreciate something done well.”

William points to his staff as the source of the diversity of their work, and credits their highly curated Instagram feed with doing some of the recruiting. “At Watson & Company we are all artists in some respects. We focus on hiring practicing artists on the creative side, as often they are greater polymaths when it comes to communicating an idea or a feeling. Artists in general put the most astute and interesting lens on the zeitgeist, so we look to that work and world for cues."

Watson & Co provided Art Direction & Branding for 10 Bond St, by Selldorf Architects. Photograph by Nicholas Venezia.

Watson leads a twenty strong team of what he believes are the best creatives, designers, producers, strategists and entrepreneurs that New York City has to offer. “Culture is the glue that binds and it gets easier once you get past ten employees. Then that culture starts to really cement; in smaller groups, that’s harder.”

The place-making brands that he feels are getting it right are Switzerland and believe it or not, the City of Detroit.

Asked what he thinks the legacy of their different approach to place-making will be, he hope that it will be, “a feeling that our brands and culture have enriched lives and changed the world in some small way.”

Watson & Co's Brand Collateral for The Dean Hotel in NYC

This article is based on an original interview by Michael Boamah on The Next Gag.