The Back Story

San Diego is known for its beautiful weather and vibrant beach communities, but it is also home to some of the worlds most innovative companies and brands. The problem with this is that most of those companies are spread out across the region, silo’d inside uninspiring business parks. There is no centralized hub where people can live together, work together and play together. The development team of San Diego-based Lankford & Associate’s saw this void as an opportunity to bring what is know as an innovation district to San Diego.

This new district will serve as a live/work/play neighborhood, and will be located in the upper east portion of San Diego’s burgeoning metro area. The new neighborhood is set to be a melting pot where creative culture brings to life a collaborative community.

The Challenge

Lankford & Associate’s approached us with the unique challenge of articulating the culture and vision of a live, work, play neighborhood in San Diego.

Our key objective was to develop a flexible brand platform that could evolve over the years while still remaining culturally relevant. The idea had to be broad enough to encompass the diverse set of experiences one could have in Makers Quarter™ with the ability to attract a youthful demographic of business and creative professionals.

Defining Our Brand Strategy

To help inform some of the design decisions for the future community, we conducted an audit of San Diego’s Upper East Village’s (Makers Quarter) history and its long-term goals and strategic plans. The audit consisted of interviews with key stakeholders, people from the San Diego historical society, business owners, locals, and community representatives.

This whole project is focused on the public realm, the spaces between the buildings. Those are the spaces that really matter to us now. The key to this project is to make more of a civic space than a bunch of buildings. We want to create a place where people can interact and culture can thrive.

Naming a Neighborhood

Utilizing the core values of neighborhood, we moved into the naming process which was constructed into three phases.

Phase one consisted of open brainstorming sessions where our team came together and developed mind maps based on the three core values of the neighborhood. During this phase we were able to generate hundreds of names...like NOMA, Boxer Commons, Circa Square and The District.

In phase two, we broke out into smaller teams and started to analyze the list of names we had come up with. This process really helped us avoid groupthink and allowed us to stray away from traditional community naming conventions that rely solely on geographical or historical elements of that area. Instead, we focused our discussions around the people that would make up the community; the ones who would define the neighborhood.

The third phase left us with the name Makers Quarter, a name that we felt could define the past, present and future of a collaborative community. It is both rich with history, relevant for today’s audience and scalable enough to relate to it’s future audience.

A Flexible System

After many rounds of concepts and explorations we landed on a very simple and flexible solution. We created a design system that reinforced the idea of people, public spaces and the interaction within the new community.

The final design language is based around the logo and mark of the district, a customizable “M” inside an open square. The open square represents the open public space of the community, while the “M” represents the people who are at the heart of the neighborhood.

The design language we established allows for continuous flexibility and growth throughout the years. Its simplicity gives it the ability to speak to a diverse group of people and invites them to create their own relationship with the brand mark.

In order to show the marks flexibility we developed a broad range of sample applications and usages.... including stationary, event marketing materials, way-finding and iconography.

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