What’s Wrong with Updating Your Well Known Brand? Look to the Royalton, Says Rawsthorn

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Alice Rawsthorn is calling out big companies to knock it off and she’s using the destruction of the Philippe Starck designed lobby in NY at the Royalton Hotel as her chief example. What does she want these flotillas of power to stop doing? Well, only the old adage fits: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. She complains that replacing Starck’s lobby with something newer (and by her account, far more bland), they’re destroying capital in the form of design heritage, citing other offenders like Coke messing with their brand and UPS infamously killing off Paul Rand‘s logo. Granted, this hotel lobby might exist on a much smaller plane than those examples, but the piece serves it purpose well and we also pick up quite a bit of history about Starck’s process in putting together the now nonexistent Royalton Hotel and why it was such a big deal. Here’s a bit from that department:

A mal barbu Fred Flintstone lookalike who spat out media soundbites in fluent franglais, Starck was blessed with a timely flair for reinventing objects and interiors as post-modernist jokes. By 1988, he was already a star among the design cognoscenti, who flocked to Cafe Costes in Paris to wobble on his three-legged chairs, and gawp at the baby Niagara Falls in the restrooms. The Royalton’s success made him mainstream and, by the early 1990s, he had become the most famous industrial designer since his fellow Frenchman, Raymond Loewy, in the 1950s. Starck sold hundreds of thousands of cactus-shaped toilet brushes, and lobster-like lemon squeezers that invariably squirted juice in to your eyes.