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check in, mellow out

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Maybe it just figured the nation's capital could do with a taste of California mellow, or maybe it was tired of the traditional, predictable ambience of big-city hotels.

Either way, the Topaz Hotel in Washington got what it asked for when it enlisted Ad-Lib Creative in San Francisco to put a new twist on "do not disturb" signs, among other hotel staples.

"We wanted to do something calming and soothing, but still tongue-in-cheek," explained the shop's creative director, John Marin. As such, the material created uses soft teal colors and offers a careful blend of zen and sarcasm.

An elevator poster for the hotel bar, for example, reads: "The first step to enlightenment is looking within … and realizing there's room for shrimp and pork dumplings." The door hangers caution, "Do not disturb the calm little center of my universe."

The promo material is designed to play off the hotel's tranquil decor. And yes, the client loves the work. "The unique atmosphere makes each guest the center of the universe," said Sholeh Kia, general manager of the hotel. "It's all in the way we treat them."

Both the shop and the client agreed that mellow can be a powerful marketing tool.