Creative design agency Squat New York took on the ambitious task of developing a brand identity for the first mid-sized, luxury condominium in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Read on to learn from the agency about the design process:
Before we could even begin to concept brand ideas, two vital questions had to be addressed: “what’s the story?” and “who are we telling it to?”
“We believe effective branding to be so much more than compiling an attractive assembly of colors, fonts, and images,” said Shiri Kornowski, Creative Director of Squat New York. “It’s taking the principal message behind the creation of something and communicating it in a way that resonates with a target audience.” Every brand element should contribute to a larger story arc that intrigues and engages people on an emotional level. Squat essentially treats the entire branding process like a very calculated form of storytelling.
After an initial briefing with the owner of the new development, we learned the reasoning behind the development’s location and architectural design.
Inspiration first struck when they spotted an open plot among a sea of antiquated apartment buildings in South Williamsburg. Despite having plenty of trendy restaurants and entertainment venues, the area had yet to offer a modern living space that matched the hip, avant-garde vibe of the rest of neighborhood. Here was the perfect opportunity to build a more modern apartment complex that would cater to a young generation of affluent creatives and self-starters.
Knowing that most members of this crowd are just looking for ways to express their individuality, the developer determined that no single residence—whether a studio or multi-room apartment—would be built with the same layout. They also planned for the building as a whole to have an upscale, industrial feel with two-toned cement walls, expansive windows and rustic light fixtures. To add to the building’s artistic value, a nonprofit art gallery would be featured in the cellar and on the first floors.
Developing a Brand Story
Squat New York’s first step in the branding process was to come up with a name around which we could style the rest of the brand elements. It needed to reflect the unconventional architectural design of the building and appeal to the target demographic at the same time.
“We settled on the name, The Raven, for a couple different reasons,” explained Kornowski. “After getting an idea—a completed rendering—of exactly how the building will look, we noticed that its stark, standard-looking exterior somewhat conceals its more unique qualities. It hides the treasures—the art within. A raven’s coat does something similar.” While raven feathers initially appear to have an unspectacular black color, they give off a remarkably rare bluish tint when viewed more closely in the light. The unexpected beauty of their coat makes you wonder what else you don’t know about this elusive animal. In this way, The Raven not only embodies the building’s structure, it characterizes the space as mysterious and elegant.
Next up was the tagline—those are always tricky. Combining all the main concepts in as few words as possible is no easy feat. After several days of trading and twisting ideas, we came up with the line: “Leave all convention at the front door.” It has a sort of dual function, in that it cleverly references real estate and positions the building as a way of exploring individualism.
One of our more difficult tasks was crafting a logo that captured the essence of both a raven and the building. In other words, we needed the more robust qualities of this type of bird to tie in with the sturdiness of the industrial development. We eventually decided on a very minimalistic sketch of a raven. By outlining the bird’s frame with one solid line from start to finish, we were able to invoke the strength and stability of the building’s steel window frames. So as to help demonstrate the logo’s intimate connection with the building’s structure, we built a statue that looks to be a miniature replica of the building when viewed straight on, but from a top angle, takes the form of the logo.
The key for keeping the theme of all brand elements consistent was our color palette of dark blues and charcoal gray. We stuck with inky, ominous hues, not just in imitation of a raven’s feathers, but of the shadowy depths where ravens lurk. They set a tone for the building that incites curiosity and awe.
Our next big move was into the execution stage where we began developing a website and all related copy. Before touching wireframes, we sketched out various ideas for constructing an intuitive interface as modern and visually stimulating as the building itself. In the end, we settled on a minimalist layout that draws particular attention to the high resolution, full-screen renderings of the building. “But it’s not just beautiful to look at,” said Kornowski. “Things are easy to find, easy to navigate. Good web design is as much about experience as it is looks.”
We also had to seek out the best way to present potential residents with everything they could possibly want to know, from the building’s backstory to details about room layouts, amenities and room availability. This included choosing a classic, legible webfont that gives off the impression that it would be the exact style of a raven’s hand-writing were it to take on a human form.
The end of the project involved producing the marketing tools that would tie everything together. Taking inspiration from the raw materials and solid, geometric shapes used in the construction of the building, we designed a number of different stationery items – a few of which would be included in a give-away package for potential residents. As we created patterns for additional accessories like tote bags, we focused particularly on the design of the building’s thick, industrial-style glass and metal windows. Even the materials we selected for the items have a texture and a finish reminiscent of smooth steel or coarse concrete.
The Final Effect
In giving every brand element a meaning and a purpose, we infused the development with personality. “It’s now more than just the beautiful, new building on the block,” said Kornowski. “It has a character and a philosophy that are appealing on a far deeper level.”
A successful, young creative will come across an ad for The Raven and see that it celebrates art, elegance, unconventionality and mystery—all the values of present Brooklyn culture. They’ll find themselves immersed in a brand experience they can relate to and partake in. It’s what any good brand—or story—will do.
Learn more about branding, logos and identity design in these online courses from HOW Design University: