Youth hostel Pilo gets a fun, fluffy visual identity

Designed by 5.5, the branding embodies the youthful energy and quality experience at the heart of the Lyon hostel, including a custom font inspired by pillows

Pilo, a new generation youth hostel in Lyon, France, enlisted the help of Paris-based design studio 5.5 to create a brand identity that matches its vision.

Set in a former 19th century college on the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, Pilo offers visitors space to work, socialise, eat and sleep, but does so in a way that’s unusual for a youth hostel. Pilo’s unique selling point is that, despite catering to a young demographic looking for a quick place to rest their heads, it comes in the form of a luxury hotel.

Photo of a Pilo hostel sign fixed to a wall, with additional signs that read hotel and food
Photo of a towel arranged in the shape of a swan labelled Pilo

It offers both comfort and convenience, mixing the energy and sleeping styles of a hostel with the elegant touches of boutique accommodation, including lavish amenities and high-quality beds and bedding.

This unusual merging of typically disparate worlds was the main source of inspiration for the team at 5.5, who designed an identity that lies at the intersection between the two.

Graphic showing Pilo's white bubbly font
Graphic showing Pilo's white bubbly font

“We worked with all the elements which evoke comfort in a good hotel: good beds, soft sheets, fluffy pillows, bathrobe fabrics, hotel slippers,” says 5.5 co-founder and partner, Vincent Baranger. “We designed fluffy typography inspired by folding bolster pillows, we sewed a slipper on a t-shirt, wrote messages on sheets, and we made embroidered badges to indicate the rooms.”

At the heart of the identity is a custom typeface, also named Pilo, which features rounded letterforms reminiscent of folded bolster pillows – an enduring icon of youth hostels around the world. These letters feature added pleats in the corners, to further emphasise the bold and fluffy feeling.

Photo of a menu with scalloped edges labelled brunch
Photo showing Pilo's black bubbly font written on a slipper attached to a T-shirt in the place of a pocket

Elsewhere, signage around the hotel reflects this theme of simple luxury, with illustrations for the toilets, shower, laundry and do not disturb sign, to name but a few, rendered using playful colours, pillow and slipper imagery, and more rounded letters.

Crucially, because 5.5 was formerly a product design studio, the team were conscious of how these elements of the branding could come to life physically, carefully choosing the right materials and techniques. “For Pilo, we worked with embroidery techniques to create the signage,” explains Baranger. “We used the ‘chenille’ patch technique to create room numbers that are very soft and which everybody touches before entering their room.”

Photo of a white plate of food with the word Pilo written on the plate rim in black rounded font

These thoughtful details even carry through to the staff uniform, which features a t-shirt with an actual slipper sewn onto the chest, and the menu in the restaurant, which is attached to a plastic border in the shape of a cloud and made from recycled materials.

In every aspect of the Pilo visual identity, there is a whimsicality that embodies the carefree energy that youth hostels are so well known for, offset against touches of luxury that elevate the entire experience. “In short, we used the hotel as a playground,” says Baranger. “The feeling we wanted to create is very simple: at Pilo, it’s possible to have a comfortable stay and fun times at the same time.”