Great Brands Carve Out Their Own Space

Written by lookthinkmake | July 11, 2019

Understory, Mueller Business District, Bouldin Creek

What if you could shape your world? Not just your home, but also the places you go every day—to work, to shop, to explore? Creating public, multi-function spaces requires a balance, blending architecture and art, wayfinding and wandering, and commerce and conversation.

We all thrive on chance meetings and surprising discoveries. And we remember the places that make us feel something.

Recently lookthinkmake has had a chance to help create some of those spaces, including destination-based projects like Mueller Business District, a lively and walkable commercial center in central East Austin; Bouldin Creek, a mixed-use architectural gem wrapped by an enchanted forest; and Understory, a meeting and eating hub at the base of Houston’s Capitol Tower.

Creating—and branding—places requires special consideration and care. When we help to establish a place, we hope that it lives, breathes, and evolves for generations to come. So the choices we make today affect the community as it is now, and what we hope it will become. In our many years of placemaking experience, here are some considerations that we make when we approach a commercial branding project.

1 / Brands are more than logos.

Logos are neat and tidy graphic representations of a large and amorphous symbolic concept. In other words, brands are consistent summations of all of the experiences and touchpoints that one has with a particular place. Brands are promises, reflections of a past, and signposts to a future. So the type, wordmark, and iconography should all point to a larger, emotional story.

2 / Open an umbrella.

The beginning of a project that will evolve and grow over time is an exciting moment. So in building a brand, approaching it from an umbrella mindset allows us the most flexibility over time. Creating a name and design that is evocative enough to set a strong story in motion, but broad and flexible enough to absorb and envelop new and exciting changes and innovations over time is critical to a successful place-based brand. Oh, and also, while we’re on the subject of umbrellas, patios dotted with the shade encourage people to linger and connect. We’re all for those.

3 / It’s a big house. Invite everybody.

Each one of us has a different perspective, a blend of old and new, quirky and polished, local and global. Community-friendly spaces welcome people from far and wide, and this is critical to the success of a public-facing place. The brand should be remarkable, aspirational, and symbolic as a true spot to gather and share in fun, energetic, and often unexpected ways. A good brand reflects a place that people can call their own.

So as you make your place in the world, make your brand your promise—and make your promise your brand.

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