Hotel Olympia Hotel, Greece / Designed by Designers United (Dimitris Koliadimas, Dimitris Papazoglou), 2006
It is often said that recessions and economic hardship stimulate greater levels ofinvention and creativity. It would seem on the surface that Greece’s economic woes have had exactly that effect on the country’s design community, prompting the emergence of a new, exciting generation of Greek graphic design studios. There is little in the way of a graphic culture in Greece; the economy progressed from farming to tourism without first developing a manufacturing industry or the skills to brand and market companies and products to consumers. The country had no big brands or progressive businesses to champion design. Besides the striking 1960s travel posters of Freddie Carabott and Michalis Katzourakis, Greece has failed to win much in the way of international recognition for its design output.
Now, though, a new swell of design talent in the peninsula is making waves on the blogosphere, led by young, smart, Englishspeaking studios such as G Design Studio and Pi6 in Athens and Designers United in Thessaloniki. Their work is as visually sophisticated, rich in ideas and polished in its execution as anything else in Europe. This identity for the newly refurbished Hotel Olympia in the centre of Thessaloniki is a good example, working on several levels with just a circle and two lines.
First, it is a monogram of the name. Second, the reduction to these particular two letters (the same as in the molecular formula for water) offers a reference to the hotel’s past life as a spa and a popular landmark of the city – a strong focus of the design brief. Third, the mark is an image synonymous with hotels: a room key in a lock. If Greek tourism, and its industry in general, could embrace the fresh thinking of its emerging design community, it would do the country’s recovery no harm.