Branding can change perceptions.
When I think of Clifton Square, I think of sitting in the back of our ’88 Oldsmobile station wagon waiting for mom to come out of the “old lady fabric shops.” Then I quickly transition to today where I enjoy super juicy burgers, pizza, and a bit of shopping. It’s become a staple of Wichita for me. When someone asks where to visit, I always recommend Clifton Square.
In my article about my goals for branding Clifton Square, I wrote about how I grew up not too far from its location and the negative perceptions I’ve had since I was a kid. I’ve always feared the same for the rest of their customers, tenants, and desired tenants. However, it wasn’t until Gardner Design was given the opportunity to redesign their out-dated, unreadable, leaning-over, sign that I’d have the chance to rectify the situation.
Although the start of our conversation began with the need for a new sign, we led the thinking toward building a better brand foundation. With the investors in agreement, we decided the first step would be creating a solid identity. We could then build upon this identity by establishing the brand’s visual language and implement this on other touch-points around the square including signage.
Excited to get started with this personally nostalgic project, here’s my process of how I developed the new brand.
Gather raw data and define the situation
Clifton Square is named after Clifton Avenue, the street bordering the west side of the area. It’s a group of approximately 12 houses converted into shops and restaurants in the heart of College Hill, near downtown Wichita, Kansas. They’re all unique and eclectic, sitting in the midst of tall oak trees. It’s called a square because its boundary lines are a square block with streets separating it from the surrounding neighborhood.
From a brand perspective, we agreed the new identity needs to have charm, excitement, and be a cheerful representation of the square.
By establishing the brand personality with the client, it helps define the brand’s direction and keep it aligned as we move forward.
Form raw data into useable information
I met the investors and we walked the square discussing the unique character and history of the houses. They shared the current situation of many of shops and the type of tenants they would ultimately like to see here.
After a few afternoon discussions and my own stomping on the premises, I began to gather my list of keywords as I typically do. I narrow down the words that are unique and align with the clients goals. I’m excited about these brand directions.
- Central, Sun: The square is centrally located in the city. The square feels like a place to go on a sun-shiny day that evokes happiness.
- Houses: The shops are all located in Victorian style houses around the square.
- Persona: Although Clifton is the name of the street where the square is located, it sounds like it was named after a “Mr. Clifton.” Should I give this “Mr. Clifton” a face?
- Adventure: With the variety of things to do in the square, you get a sense of adventure. It’s also tucked in a forrest of Oak trees making it somewhat hidden.
- Animal: With all the Oak trees, squirrels are abundant. Could Clifton be a squirrel? Clifton, The Squirrel…I like that.
- Birdhouse: There are countless birds in the trees above the houses. The shops are also in houses. Connection?
03 Brand Theme
Transform information into visual ideas
These brand themes of a sun, birdhouses, a squirrel named Clifton, and bikes are all super fun and speak the true essence of the square. Where should I start?
I often show these to the client when presenting the final logo options because it helps support our goals and justify our strategy.
Hand and computer sketching
I love the squirrel characters, but I love the pattern potential of the birdhouse houses. A pattern based off of these shapes could play a vital role in the brand’s visual language.
This group of ideas bring the essence of the square without being too literal. When you align great design with what’s important to your client, it makes it really difficult to disqualify.
In the presentation, I often extend the keywords further to support each idea.
06 Final Selection
It was unanimous among the investors to use both the birdhouse house and scooter squirrel, which later became known as “Clifton” the squirrel. We can use two logos right? No. We have to pick one and we decided on the birdhouse houses.
The birdhouse houses represent the collection and diversity of businesses found at the square. The birdhouses represent the placement of the square among the massive oak trees. Look up and you’ll find the same commotion going on among the birds above. The diverse color palette and shapes represent the fun and adventurous atmosphere. I also see heads of people represented by the circles enjoying the area. The overall geometric aesthetic of the logo adds a modern look and feel.
The san serif “Clifton” reflects the symbol’s square and geometric qualities of the buildings. While the “Square” script brings a human quality and reflects the history of the area.
Signage · Pattern
Signage is always the anomaly in a brand system because you often use the logo differently in these situations. I often talk about a brand’s visual language that extends from the logo and its importance in building the brand. In this case, the brand’s visual language helped me build the main entry sign with the right visual hierarchy. For instance, I separated the wordmark and the symbol in order to get the name as large as possible for vehicular visibility. This gave me the opportunity to use the logo in the lower portion, with some of its elements on top. Altogether, there is enough brand visual language to support the brand without showing the formal lock-up of the logo. This same approach could be sprinkled throughout the square to further create cohesion among the houses.
I felt a bit of irony walking in to present my work to the group. All these years I had one perception of this place. Now Clifton Square will be a sign to me every time I pass by — perceptions can always change.
If you’d like to see behind the scenes fabrication of the sign, check out my Instagram page in the stories under “Clifton.”