New Talent ‘ODE’: Where Wabi-Sabi Meets Urban Vibes

From ArtCenter College of Design, Chloe Zhang‘s project “ODE” is a conceptual boutique hotel brand set amidst the stylish lanes of Tokyo’s Daikanyama district. Drawing parallels with Brooklyn’s urban chic vibe, this district, with its brewpubs, luxury boutiques, and artistic bookstores, forms the perfect canvas for Zhang’s design. Delving deep into Tokyo’s heritage, her design bridges tactile with digital, all while embracing the wabi-sabi essence of appreciating the beauty in natural simplicity. Step into Chloe’s story below.

By: Chloe Zhang

Tokyo’s Daikanyama district, renowned for its juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, offered me a unique canvas as a graphic designer. Here, I envisioned ODE, not just as another boutique hotel but as a spatial journey into the very heart of sensory experiences.

ODE is deeply rooted in the wabi-sabi principle, celebrating the beauty of imperfection. This principle, close to my heart as a designer, informed my every choice. Traditional materials like bamboo, cloth, and wood became storytellers, not mere elements, weaving tales from old-world Japan into the contemporary ambiance of the hotel. These materials spoke of an authentic Japanese narrative, beckoning visitors into a dance between the past and the present.

With the guidebook, I aimed to bring the tactile essence of ODE into the hands of its guests. Using Japanese hand-made paper, this wasn’t merely about texture but about immersing guests in the narrative. The book serves not only as a guide but also as an introduction to ODE’s journey and the rich heritage of Le Labo.

Visually, the asymmetrical grid system, a reflection of the ODE logotype, was my canvas. It stands as a testament to harmonious visual balance. Every column, every layout choice, was meticulously curated, ensuring coherence and a poetic rhythm throughout the hotel.

Taking ODE’s essence online was a challenge I relished. The website had to be more than just a digital replica; it needed to be an interactive extension of the hotel’s core design principles, a space where guests could experience ODE before their physical arrival.

Central to this was the ODE logotype. Rather than using it as a branding element, I transformed it into an interactive feature. The distinct shapes and curves of the logo were morphed into clickable elements, guiding visitors through a tailored journey on the site. Each section, inspired by a fragment of the logo, provided unique insights, stories, and experiences of ODE.

One of the standout features I’m particularly proud of is the personal perfume customization. Drawing from the tactile experience of scent in the physical space of ODE, the digital platform offers guests an intimate engagement. They can explore, blend, and create their signature fragrances. The process is designed to be immersive, with visuals and descriptions that evoke the essence of each scent, making it almost tangible through the screen. Once crafted, guests can then look forward to experiencing their bespoke scent upon their stay at the hotel.

Moreover, the fluidity of the site’s design mirrors ODE’s architectural and interior flow. Subtle animations, inspired by the wabi-sabi principle, highlight the beauty of imperfection, with elements occasionally overlapping or moving asymmetrically, echoing the hotel’s design language.

In essence, the ODE website is not just a point of information but a digital sanctuary that extends the hotel’s sensory and design experiences to visitors from all corners of the globe. Through innovative design and interactive features, the digital realm of ODE becomes a harmonious fusion of brand identity, sensory experiences, and user engagement.

To me, ODE is not just a design project; it’s an amalgamation of art, graphic design, language, scent, and unparalleled hospitality. Through ODE, I’ve tried to showcase that design, when approached with passion and precision, transforms spaces into stories and experiences into memories. In Tokyo’s vast and vibrant canvas, ODE emerges, not as the loudest, but as the most resonant, a gentle whisper of the beauty of simplicity and the profoundness of personal discovery.

Hi! I’m Chloe Zhang, a graphic designer and creative technologist based in LA/NY. Like my colorful personality, I approach each project with various tools and concepts. With my degree in design and media arts from UCLA and my MFA in graphic design from the ArtCenter College of Design, I merge technology and interactivity with traditional design theories to bring new life to each project I approach. I like to rediscover the extraordinary within the everyday, reconstruct the plain with the new, and reconnect users, makers, and humans.

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Author: Graphis