5 Architecture Projects That Use Branding to Engage the Public

Museum Buttons (Image source: Gloria Lau)

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has recently unveiled their new logo, which spurred quite a heated discussion.

This debate led me to think about the prevalent use of branding in urban projects, which is often seen solely as a marketing endeavour.

However, many of these branding projects also highlight the importance of good design, help revive neglected spaces and create a unifying identity of a place.


1. Building — Parrish Museum, Long Island

Many museums are associated with their buildings, but looking through many admission buttons I have collected over the years, only one has the building central to its brand. Parrish Museum is located outside of New York City, occupying 14-acres of land. The building was designed by Herzog & de Meuron and inspired by Long Island’s artist studios and art colonies.

After its new building opened in 2012, the museum rebranded to emphasis the importance of museum space. The light and warm airiness of the building turns the focus to the art and landscape, and highlights how a great building is instrumental to the pleasure of art viewing.

Parrish Museum, Long Island (Image source: left — Arcspace; right/top-NY Observer; right/bottom — Parrish Museum)
Parrish Museum, Long Island (Image source: Vogue)

2. Environmental Signage — Seattle Public Library, Seattle

Public buildings can also incorporate environmental signage to enhance the visitors’ experience. Bruce Mau Design introduced playful graphics and strong and vibrant colors into the Seattle Public Library. The bold graphics contrast and complement the elegant design of the building’s glass and concrete by architect Rem Koolhaas.

The result not only creates a memorable and welcoming presence for the public, it also serves as legible informational graphics. The combination of iconic building and environmental signage projects a vision of embracing the public in a bold civic gesture.

Seattle Public Library, Seattle (Image source: Bruce Mau Design)
Seattle Public Library, Seattle (Image source: Columbian)

3. Neighborhood Vision — Granville Island, Vancouver

Granville Island is an artificial island created in 1915, located in False Creek. It was originally used for manufacturing and deteriorated after industry declined. In the 1970s, the City of Vancouver appointed the Granville Island Trust to oversee redevelopment and the Granville Public Market was opened in 1979. A vision was introduced to balance the need of keeping the island’s identity as locally authentic as possible without turning it into a gimmick.

Branding not only serves as marketing but is also integrated into the design of the urban space. Flexible signage introduces the island’s history while allowing merchants and institutions on the island to adapt them to their own use. Utility lines and pipes are painted in bright red to camouflage but also highlight the connections on the island. This vision made the island into a greatly shared space for locals and tourists. (Currently, the ownership of the island is up in the air and might affect the vision of place).

Granville Island, Vancouver (Image source: drfumblefinger)
Granville Island, Vancouver (Image source: Edible Canada)

4. Park Systems — Golden Gate National Recreational Area and NYC Dept. of Parks

Golden Gate National Recreational Area Graphic (Image source: Golden Gate Conservancy)

Branding can also help government agencies assert their identity. Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA) is a series of parks on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge. Unlike other national parks that have one special location and landmark, there is a lack of awareness for the sites within the recreational area. In 1997, GGNRA hired graphic designer Michael Schwab to design posters for each site with a unifying style. The beautiful posters not only create a recognizable identity but also increase revenue and visitors for the agency.

NYC Parks old logo and new logo (Image source: bpando.org)

More recently, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation decided they need a more recognizable identity to promote the presence of public parks, especially as there’s been an increase in partnerships with local groups and private entities that have strong branding. The agency hired design firm Pentagram to update their 1934 logo and create a series of environmental signage. The redesign allows the agency to be more present and convey needed information to the public.

NYC Parks new signage (Image source: designtaxi)

5. Infrastructure — Mexico City Metro

Many cities have distinct logos that differentiate their transit systems. Mexico City went one step further and created a distinct identity for each stop. After successfully designing the graphics for the 1968 Olympic Game in Mexico City, graphic designer Lance Wyman was commissioned to design the graphics for the city’s metro system.

Each station icon is colour-coded to its related metro line and is associated with a landmark or activity in the particular neighbourhood. The metro graphics provide a distinct way to illustrate and navigate this vast metropolis, with the added bonus of assisting the illiterate.

Mexico City Metro Graphics (Image source: Design Boom)
Mexico City Metro Graphics (Image source: Lance Wyman)

Site&Seek is a blog series by Projexity. We’re sharing projects and processes that impact our built environment. (Post by Gloria Lau) Follow Site&Seek on Instagram.

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