Planning and branding are two sides of the same coin.
A good plan is useless if it isn’t complimented by a brand. Communities are made of people, and people are compelled by stories. Branding encapsulates the stories of a community and integrates them into a unified representation. This representation guides the plan by re-integrating people and their stories into the urban fabric.
Planning and place branding are only possible because of community visioning. As planners, we serve as facilitators who help to distill the collective past and future visions of a community. Economic downturns or the loss of industry can have devastating impacts on an area, but the creation of a cohesive vision allows a community to regain a sense of ownership. This new sense of ownership can then draw on the brand and the plan to move boldly into the future.
Our process begins with discovery and analysis. This involves extensive research into the history of an area to understand the broader context of what has shaped the town. We then focus in on the most crucial component of the whole process; the people who live there. We conduct surveys, interviews, and focus groups understand how people conceptualize their own communities.
This is where the stories begin to emerge. We learn about artisans, farmers, bakers, and artists. We begin to really understand the creative and resilient people who drive the town. Understanding their lives and their own vision for their community is where we derive our inspiration. In truth, these people are the planners and dreamers, we simply serve to awaken their potential.
The next step is to integrate these unique stories into a unified brand platform. This platform serves as a starting point for much of the graphic design work to follow. With input and guidance from the community, we then begin to transform these stories into graphic representations. These can become logos, signs, or whatever the town decides, but at their core they are just a means to capture and portray the story and collective identity of the town.
Integration into the future
The last step is unification. Although the planning and branding process are deeply related, they must be tied together to form a cohesive strategy for the future. In a way, the brand represents the past (because of the stories that make up the community), and the plan represents the future (because of the shared vision). Tying the brand into the plan effectively joins the past with the future and allows the community to continue to create their own new stories.