Incline Running

One more Oreo.

Smith & Diction
Feb 9, 2017 · 9 min read

Running—I don’t get it—but millions of other people do. Last year we were approached by Joshua & Julie Hirshey to name and brand a new kind of gym. A running gym. That’s right, a gym solely focused on running. Weird right? That’s totally what I thought too. Then after talking to Joshua for a bit he sold me on the idea. Imagine going on a distance run with a friend that runs at a different pace than you. You spend the entire time trying to keep up or slow down just to be near them and no one really ends up having a good time. Now imagine you can run together at different paces?! Enter Incline Running.

At Incline Running you can train for a 5K and your best friend can train for a marathon in the same room at the same time.

Laurel mark above the studio entrance.

No resting on these laurels

In the beginning of the logo process we worked on a few aggressive “sportsy” feeling marks based on momentum and inclines.

First round logo.

We built a custom wordmark solely out of triangles to nod toward the name. In all of our logo presentations, we create a few proof of concept pieces to show how the mark can work within an entire identity and how it reacts with photography and supporting typography.

One of the first things I was taught at my first job was to mock it up. No matter what you’re making–mock it up. It helps clients understand how the logo/brand interacts within the physical space. Sure your logo needs to look good in black and white. But also show me the feeling it creates around it.

Anyway, we were designing a newsprint flyer and making some supporting elements that nodded to the original mark using the angles/inclines to make shapes. I was like, “Hmmm, can I make a laurel strictly out of triangles?” Made it. Tossed it underneath the copy and presented it as such, didn’t really think about it that much. I even posted it to dribbble with the caption: Might use this. Might not.

Proof of concept piece. You can see the tiny laurel on the right hand side. (I do not own the rights to this photo.)
Might use this. Might not.

Not only did we end up using it, but it became the main mark for the entire brand. When we presented the first round, Joshua and Julie were so attracted to the little laurel that they asked to see it incorporated alongside the wordmark. And after a few iterations we ended up with the mark you see today. They wound up ditching the custom incline typography for a more high-end pseudo-serif.

Final logo.


We kept pushing the mark and ended up with a really interesting mashup of a few of the directions we presented. Usually I don’t encourage Frankensteining concepts, but this one ended up being pretty cool. Below is a proposed poster campaign. We rallied around this line of “One more mile.” Whenever you’re doing something you can always muster up the strength for just one more. One more mile. One more squat. One more Oreo…. So as you can see we’ve mashed up some elements from the newsprint piece you saw above.

In the end they had to slightly change the wording of the one more mile language because it was trademarked or something like that. Still a fan of this mock up though. The poster was built to mimic the vibe of the studio with the text flowing across two separate posters. Nodding toward the idea that it’s better to run with together, with support from your friends.

Proof of concept poster campaign.

Business Cards

We presented these business cards as sort of a pie in the sky idea. They wanted to create a high-end feeling for their brand, so we were like, “Sure, we can do that. It’s just going to cost about a million dollars”. We’ll have a card that’s duplexed, blind debossed, red foil on the front AND back, white foil on the front, and you know just one other additional color, because why not at this point. This card was something that you’d see on a blog and you’d be like, bulllshit no way is that real. It’s just a mock up.

Not only is this thing real, it’s printed flawlessly thanks to my guy Scott McClelland over at Paper Meets Press. I don’t know what kind of deal they made to make this happen but I’m really glad they did. Honestly, I’ll probably be buried with this business card.

“1988–2100 Here lies Mike Smith. He designed a pretty dope business card once.” — my gravestone

Front and back foils.

Color systems

Developing a color system is always extremely challenging but once you get it you’re gold. Designing the rest of the brand with a well defined color palette is a cake walk. I usually devote a fair amount of time to making sure all my colors interact well and relate to each other. And for this project we took an interesting route. Since this is an indoor gym, we wanted to develop a palette that flexed with the changing seasons. So as you can see the colors can evoke different feelings depending on their relationship to the season they represent. I’m really curious to see how this plays out as the brand lives on. It may just get completely disregarded, who knows.

Seasonal color palette.


You have to love it when your client puts their logo on everything under the sun. Multiple colorways of tee shirts, sweatshirts, hats, water bottles, car magnets, etc. They really know how to flesh out a brand over there.

Men’s sweatshirt.
Embroidered hat.
Laurel sleeve graphic.
Exterior signage.
Great light fixtures and exposed ceiling.

The Space

I can’t take credit for any of the physical space design. I put Joshua and Julie in touch with Ambit Architecture, who I knew of from my 160 days.

They did a killer job. The space is very clean and beautifully subtle. There are some really nice nods to the brand throughout the space as well, like these angled lights that reflect the angles of the laurel mark. They also do a really great job of leading the customer to the front desk.

There’s an actual gold laurel in the lounge too. Just to really drive the concept home.

Ceiling detail.
Clothing rack.
Gold laurel statement piece.
Lounge area.
Run with your heart neon sign.
Laurel detail on frosted glass for privacy.

The studio itself is really simple. They put a lot of money into getting some state-of-the-art, Olympic certified equipment up in there. The treadmills are gorgeous and the room is dim and moody. Music pumps loudly through the speakers and your veins while you’re being encouraged to keep going and going and going.

If this is something you’re interested in and you live out on the Main Line, drop by and find out a little more. Joshua and Julie are such genuinely nice people, and they’ll take the time to make you feel welcome and to help you understand exactly what they’re trying to do with this concept.

Right now, they’re running a deal that when you create an account on their website, your first class is free. So sign up! Can’t hurt to try it out right? Just kidding it probably can hurt because running hurts badly.

You’re dead to me

Here’s a little look into some of the marks that didn’t quite make it. Sadly this incline/banner mark was one of my all time favorites, so sad to see it go.

Incline banner.
Pass yourself.

The concept here is that the incline typography is being cut by a hill. That hill also makes the holder shape resemble a pennant or banner—things that are associated with running fairly often.

This mark took a more aggressive tone than some of the other concepts, which I think is what lead to its downfall. It had too much grit and not enough glamor.

The truth is that this was visually a little too close to Nike and they didn’t want to seem like Nike. Because every other gym in the entire world is trying to be Nike right now. *coughequinoxcough*

You decide campaign concept.

We made a ton of campaign mockups for this direction, purely because we loved the mark so much we really wanted to prove that it was feasible. The campaign above was playing off the idea that everything you choose to do in your day can either be healthy or not. You can take the train to work or you can run to work. You and your friends can go to the club tonight or you can go to the running club. It was a fun play on words but ended up not being the right concept for them.

We also created some super gritty pieces like the one you see below. This was cool but had nothing to do with running. Nice line though.

No glory without grit concept piece.
I was following the I was following the I.
Exterior signage mock up.

Another mark that didn’t make the cut was this I-shield. It was playing off the same concept as the triangle typography we showed in the beginning of the post but ultimately wasn’t what they were looking for. It wasn’t very ownable and felt like it could be for any company that began with an I. Had nothing to do with running.

Pasteboard scraps.

Incline Running: 519 W. Lancaster Ave, Haverford, PA 19041

Branding: Smith & Diction

Interior Design: Ambit Architecture

Website design: Good Bones Studio

Printer: Paper Meets Press

Smith & Diction

This publication is a behind the scenes look at what goes into branding projects with Smith & Diction.

Smith & Diction

Written by

Smith & Diction

This publication is a behind the scenes look at what goes into branding projects with Smith & Diction.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade