MOB Hotel

MOB Hotel

by GBH London

MOB is a boutique hotel in Paris striving to break hospitality conventions. GBH have spent the last 3 years working on a comprehensive identity system including digital, physical and analogue as elements, inspired by ‘Karl Marx and communist aesthetics’.

We spoke to Sam Smith at GBH to find out more…

Tell us a bit about the project?
MOB was devised around the concept of Community. The exact opposite of shutting yourself off in your own room. The idea that we can all learn from one another and the power of the people. That’s why it’s named MOB HOTEL OF THE PEOPLE. GBH made the decision to approach the project as a collaboration and we ended up having almost everyone as well as our friends and family get involved in the project, to debate and experiment over its two year duration.

How did it evolve over the years?
The project actually evolved in a really organic/natural way. We started with the brand identity hand in hand with the brand story and very quickly established a mantra that we lived by and applied to all aspects of the work. Whatever we did needed to feel simple, joyful and have economy of means. Ingenious, direct and charming solutions were sought to common hotel problems.

To tie in with the atmosphere of the place, and the ‘Of The People’ attitude, the inspiration was taken from the teachings of Karl Marx with a drop of communist aesthetics, making a trio of nesting dolls the hero brand identity. These feel human,  playful and personal all at once, styled in a way that make them feel incredibly approachable.

An analogue adaptability that celebrates the hand made flowed into all aspects of the hotel:

– A direct-to-wall spray painted signage system

– A folded keycard holder that is simply an A4 sheet of paper that doubles as a map of the area.

– A ticket-and-stamp system developed to use old school tickets on rolls. These can be used as a business card, a voucher for a cup of coffee, or free entry to the rooftop cinema

(We ended up working with the only place in Paris that could print these kind of ticket rolls on a machine that was around 100 years old and print 100,000 at a time).

-There is no reception desk, just a commissary-style shop that rents out items such as ukuleles and iPads. The rooms have books but no TV.

This also saves as much money as possible and keeps room prices down, again making it ‘Of The People’.


It has so many nice touches and ideas too, like a rooftop vegetable garden given to the locals, a cinema in the courtyard, a basement working space for local start-ups given free for 6 months. And two shops in the lobby that host local businesses (these change every month). Anything to get guests to interact with each other and share different cultures.

We also worked on their promotional campaign. Any room any size just 99 euros. First come first served. Democracy in action.

They are designed and printed cheaply, and fly postered around Paris. This analogue advertising is bold and colourful, and the almost slap-dash way of putting these up, breaks the norm of clinical advertising by imposing an almost forgotten human quality in them, often encouraging people to interact with them,

It’s a community-creating, politically-inspired campaign. As such we use button badges and flyers to spread the word. We obtained special licence from the city to allow us to post in top locations as well as going rogue where possible! And when a new campaign is introduced, such as a Christmas or Valentines offer, they are simply pasted over the previous posters.

With so many physical elements, did you work with French suppliers?
We did, as much of the elements were printed/produced as locally as possible. Luckily for us we have a great relationship with the client, especially the owner of the hotel Cyril Aouizerate (one of the coolest people I’ve ever met), and we worked  collaboratively to get it produced to the quality and ethics we required. Organic cotton for the tote bags. Vegetable inks for printing. Recycled everything. The restaurant in the hotel serves amazing vegan food as well as meat for those who can’t live without it.

How was the language barrier?
Actually absolutely not a problem for most of the project. The only time we had a slight issue was when we were working with a French developer on the website, and they had a system that when they checked off something on the site, we would receive an email. However, they were really technical emails about the code of the site, but in French, so we had to Google Translate them and work out the slightly broken English. We received up to 20 mails a day for over a year. You do the math…

Have you been over to see it?
We’ve all been over a few times before and after launch. Some of us have visited the new MOB in Lyon and we are looking forward to the next opening in Washington DC. There are 10 more MOB hotels planned in the next 5 years. There may be one coming to the UK.

Keep watching…

Luke Tonge