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BEHIND THE BRANDING WITH WALL TO WALL STUDIOS

Honolulu has quickly become a mecca for creativity, and the creative agency Wall to Wall is an integral part of this burgeoning scene. Alongside other Honolulu-based artistic institutions such as Lana Lane Studios, POW! WOW! Hawaii and The Vanguard TheoryWall to Wall Studios has brought back a welcomed artistic flair to the community.

In collaboration with Surfjack’s interior design firms, The Vanguard Theory and Studio Collective, Wall to Wall was ultimately tasked with creating the hotel’s brand story from the ground up. And though Wall to Wall has worked with several hotels over the past decade, they had yet to work on anything as in depth as their project with the Surfjack. The result, according Jesse Arneson, lead designer on the project, is a hotel unlike anything else here on Oahu. “The Surfjack feels like a Hawaii of this time and moment,” he says.

The core concept of this boutique hotel was to bring Honolulu back into Waikiki, which served as the cultural hub of Oahu from the 1930s to the 1980s. “Honolulu itself has a food, art and culture scene that is, and should be, recognized nationally, but Waikiki has been somewhat void of that since the ‘80s. If we can bring all of those great things back, we can make Waikiki a richer, more unique experience.”

Surfjack x Wall to Wall Studios

Jesse admits that the hardest part of the project was deciding on a name for the hotel. The team, consisting of the hotel’s owners, The Vanguard Theory, Studio Collective, Parker Moosman  and Ali McMahon from men’s and women’s boutique Olive & Oliver, Honolulu’s renowned chef Ed Kenney (of the property’s Mahina & Suns) and Wall to Wall, spent countless hours bouncing ideas off of each other to see what stuck.

After narrowing it down to about three names, they decided on Surfjack—a name that is both familiar, yet unique, seeing as Surfjack is a made up word. The name was inspired by the author Jack London, who spent time in Waikiki during the 1910 era, and wrote beautifully poetic essays on surfing that were featured in Harper’s Bazaar and the like.

“We really liked the idea of Jack London being sort of like the patron saint of the building. He was an explorer, and surfing was something he was into but it didn’t define his life. He was a modern explorer,” Jesse says.

Jesse Arneson, Wall to Wall Studios

But the team behind naming the hotel knew they’d need a definition, or easy answer to the question that would inedibly be asked: What is a Surfjack?

After all, the entire weight of the project lands on the name. So they came up with a quick one-liner to explain a Surfjack: anyone who takes inspiration from the ocean. Jesse explains further: “It’s the guy who works downtown and skips out early to go surfing, or the woman in Wisconsin who’s going through pictures of the beach wishing she was in Hawaii, or the artist who just loves being around the ocean because it’s a source of inspiration.”

Surfjack merchandise

As for the logo and branded material, you won’t find the traditional corporate look anywhere at the Surfjack. There’s a sense of imperfectness and free form to all of the marketing and collateral. Featuring not one, but a family of logos, the Surfjack’s branding feels fresh. “There’s a 1960s vibe without being cute or cliche,” adds Jesse.

The Surfjack’s retro lettering came to life via a set of ceramic letters Jesse found on Ebay. He purposely scanned the letters in an imperfect way, so words look more like they were handwritten. (You can also see the letters on Olive & Oliver cafe menu, and other places throughout the Surfjack’s on-site boutique.) The script font used, which is a little more playful, was inspired by the vintage signage seen throughout Waikiki.

Wall to Wall letters for the Surfjack

The details you’ll notice upon check-in, imagined by Wall to Wall—including the old-school hotel fob and a Swim Club membership card to access the pool—are the details that set the Surfjack apart from other boutique hotels in Waikiki. The Surfjack’s Swim Club is it’s own unique venue, open to the public, where residents and travelers can come for themed pool parties, to watch movies and art premiers, or to listen to music and talk story with guest speakers.

And thanks to the creative collaboration between Wall to Wall and Vanguard Theory, the Surfjack pool has become one of the most recognizable pools on Oahu. The funky facelift included artist Matt Tapia painting the phrase “Wish You Were Here!” on the bottom, creating a postcard-like setting when viewed from above.

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Jesse believes Waikiki is having a little bit of a resurgence, and we couldn’t agree more. That said, you can expect the Surfjack to keep evolving with the community and its guests, with the help of Wall to Wall and a team of talented artists and collaborators.

“We wanted the soul of the hotel to have ongoing collaborations with local artists, in an effort to bring not only guests, but the creative community, into the space. To us, the Surfjack feels authentic. Not an authentically Hawaiian hotel, but authentic to urban Honolulu experience.”

We invite you to come see for yourself.

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