About Hotel Excelsior Project [how and why]

Hotel Excelsior typography is a seven-year project (2007-2014) of Rubberband Design Studio that consists of transforming an 11-letter hotel logo from 1966 lettering to a contemporary digital typography. It was used as an educational platform for both historical research and for helping young designers understand how historical events shape present sociopolitical scenarios. Hotel Excelsior typography is a independent academic project lead by Dr. María de Mater O’Neill. Initially she worked with a small group of design students (2007-2008) from the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico. In the process Dr. O’Neill changed the project to a learning-based practice with emerging designers to produce the typography. The development of the typography was completed on 2013.

Newspaper clip
Newspaper clip

The original lettering came from a 1966 mid size hotel in a residential area of San Juan, Puerto Rico. The hotel was designed by prize wining architects Toro y Ferre and it was the first two million dollar business in the 1960s, managed and owned by a woman, Shirley Axtmayer. This project was possible because of  the generosity of Ms. Axtmayer, the team leader Dr. María de Mater O’Neill, and the designers.

Architectural representation (1966)
Architectural representation (1966)

The design of the Hotel Excelsior typography was a conceptual project that combined the design of a digital artifact, an Open Type font with a philosophical way of thinking about sociopolitical phenomena and the design practice.

Download the Hotel Excelsior typography for free, HERE. Upload your use of the font with the hashtag #hotelexcelsiortype.

Acknowledgments: the Hotel Excelsior creative team were Dr. María de Mater O’Neill (team leader). Designers: Arthur L. Asseo, Verónica Cano, Rachel Hernández, María Maldonado, Mayela Mercedes, Josué Oquendo and Daniel Rivera. Intern: Natasha Rivera. Consultants: Norma Jean Colberg (2007-10) and Mauricio Conejo (2007-2008).


Brochure Hotel Excelsior
Brochure Hotel Excelsior

1966– Hotel Excelsior opens in Miramar (part of Santurce, a residential neighborhood in the city of San Juan, Puerto Rico).

Initial drawings by Maria Maldonado (2009)
Initial drawings by María Maldonado (2007)

2007– O’Neill initiates the project with design students.

2008– O’Neill changes her approach to a project-based learning with emerging designers.

From left to right:
From left to right: Veronica Cano, Pablo Carpintero, Marcela Romero, Carlos Cosgaya, Maria de Mater O’Neill and Arthur Asseo at FADU, Buenos Aires, Argentina (2009).

2009– Typographic Clinic, that O’Neill organized with Pablo Cosgaya, an Argentine professor from the School of Architecture, Urbanism and Design in University of Buenos Aires, Argentina. LINK: PDF Project Presentation to Clinic participants.

2009 – Presentation (pin-up) at Beta Local, San Juan, Puerto Rico. LINK: video [with English subtitles]

2010 – Conference at the 4th International Conference on Typography and Visual Communication on the theme of “Lending Grace to Language”, Department of Design & Multimedia of the University of Nicosia, Cyprus. LINK: Conference Presentation [prezi] and Video (additional link)

2012– Paper co-written by O’Neill and Arthur Asseo, Typography Restoration as a Sign for Understanding Political Discourse, is published in Hyphen journal, Greece. LINK: PDF. A printed copy is available at Colección Puertorriqueña, Biblioteca José M. Lázaro, Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras.

2013– Development of the typeface completed.

2014– Hotel Excelsior typography is released.

2015– New article published at Cruces. LINK: Construcción de conocimiento crítico, transdisciplinario y disposicional mediante un diseño tipográfico

Who is behind this

Rubberband Design Studio (rubberbandpr.com), transformation design firm. Rubberband specializes in design led research and user centered methodologies. We work with User Centered Design methodologies to extrapolate, understand, evaluate and improve the users’ experience with our clients’ products or services. Among other projects that we have done as part of our philosophy of Corporate Social Responsibility, similar to Hotel Excelsior is Proyecto C.

Dr. María de Mater O’Neill (mmo@rubberbandpr.com): Senior partner. Award winning painter and designer. Has a BFA from Cooper Union, New York (1984), and a Professional Doctorate in Design Practice from the School of Design, Northumbria University, UK (2014). For more info on her educational practice visit her blog at catedrammo.wordpress.com and on her painting practice, marimateroneill.com. O’Neill was the team leader, Hotel Excelsior was her project.

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