ID for the ID
Innovation District Identity\
The City of Chattanooga defined an innovation district—or more accurately, described it by circling a large portion of downtown on a map. Unfortunately, the City initially contracted an “identity design” from an online logo generator, and created signage using the mark.
Although City leaders were well-intentioned, as might be expected, the Chattanooga design community raised its eyebrows, then its hands, then its voices.
So the City put out an RFP for a proper identity to be developed. One that grew out of the community, represented it, and tapped local talent.
The Mayor describes the Innovation District as “A catalytic mix of start-up businesses, business incubators & accelerators, alongside innovation economy generators & amenities—available in a dense, walkable urban core.” Drawn in a way that includes parts of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, the revitalized Southside, and much of the urban core—the district is centered on a Market Street building called the Edney Innovation Center, which serves as “a connecting point, support base, and catalyst for the local entrepreneurial ecosystem.”
However, innovation here is not limited to technology or entrepreneurship. It can happen in any field. It can pop up anywhere, from the Edney Building to the parks, the Community Kitchen to coffeeshops.
“There's an irony to creating a brand about an innovation district,” said collaborator Caleb Ludwick of 26 Tools llc. "Innovation, at its best, is something they can't be programmed. It's like inspiration or good luck: it happens, and the best you can do is have the right people in place, and be prepared to catch it and hold onto it as it takes flight. We wanted to create an identity that—while more a logo than a fully shaped brand—gives a focal point to the focal point, creates a unified look and feel that can be implemented throughout the district, helps shape a narrative for the future, and hopefully opens doors for everyone.”
The design process dove deeply into the potential of the District. Asking questions like: What sort of impacts does the district have? On which people? What technologies? Jobs? Education? Resources? Health? And in this day and age, what does innovation mean, anyway?
“We were very fortunate that the Mayor's office, River City Company, and the Enterprise Center allowed us to put together a team of writers and designers who have the talent and the experience to pull off such an effort,” said Paul Rustand of Widgets. “We're very proud of what we've made together, because it captures and expresses not only our pride in Chattanooga but also in the great ideas that are born here, every day.”
Creative Direction: Paul Rustand; Design Direction: Caleb Ludwick, Aggie Toppins/The Official Studio, Matt Greenwell; Design: Travis Hitchcock; Research and Strategy: 26 Tools, Paige Southard; Production: Range Projects, Professional Sign Services.