Established in 2006 the Bloomington Entertainment & Arts District (BEAD) is a state-designated cultural district and city-led economic development project that supports the galleries, performing arts venues, public parks, hotels, and nearly 100 restaurants and more than 100 specialty shops spread across 60 city blocks in the heart of downtown Bloomington, IN. Being a small city, almost everything that happens here, happens downtown, which is basically the purview of the BEAD so all the great restaurants, stores, bars, and venues are related to the BEAD, making it a fairly intrinsic part of what makes Bloomington, Bloomington. Earlier this year, the BEAD introduced a new identity designed by local firm, us.
When we moved to Bloomington over two years ago, the downtown area had a few scattered banners with the BEAD logo and messaging and from the beginning it struck us how disparate these were from how much more engaging and charming downtown was. The logo had many problems, starting with the difficulty of deciphering the icons’ posterized artwork in black against relatively dark colors and, once you did, you realized how unrelated they were in both execution and message. The color palette was a little painful and dated too. The icons in the logo extended to a larger set of icons that were presented in the walking map at a time where there was a clearer division of what kinds of business existed in specific areas, which has since evolved to be more varied. What the logo did very well, though, was establish “The BEAD” as an entity, thanks in part to how large it was in the logo. The BEAD acronym came about partly because the boundaries of the district form a bead-like shape. When the city announced a request for quotations we jumped on the opportunity to help our charming little town improve on its design.
What’s great about the district is that it literally resides at the center of the city, so people from all points — North, South, East, West, and everything in between — convene in this relatively small area and then are able to disperse in any direction to eat, drink, socialize, shop, and/or enjoy live performances. This notion that people come from everywhere and, once here, can go anywhere, is what prompted us to use arrows — lots of them — to convey the vibrancy of the district. Since the BEAD is a City of Bloomington initiative, we found it fortuitous that the city’s own logo had the beginnings of some arrow shapes, just waiting to be uncovered, so the structure and proportions of the BEAD arrows come directly from the city’s logo. We arranged the arrows in a diamond shape to allude to the boundaries of the district, which form a similar shape.
The “BEAD” within the arrows is typeset in Morl Sans for no philosophical reason other than it had the right thickness, width, and generic-ness that we were after as something that would pair well with the arrows’ weight and construction. For the full name we wanted something to contrast the condensed “BEAD” and we selected GT Eesti for no philosophical reason other than it felt like Bloomington: modest, relatively quiet but with a quirky personality. The latter we saw reflected in Eesti’s funky M”s . It was a hard set of words to work with and after trying many combinations, a fully justified approach ended up being the most useful — we do realize “BLOOMINGTON” feels looser but I think we arrived at fairly decent range of letter-spacing.
The color palette is very much on purpose in line with some of the fintech/startup-y palettes we’ve been seeing recently as a way of quickly signaling to the town that this iteration of BEAD is bold, vibrant, and new. It wasn’t completely random or gratuitous though: both the purple and red were in the previous logo and the light and dark blue are in reference to the city’s blue logo.
One of the reasons we wanted the full name justified was so that we could do the above… creating a set of large arrows — well, chevrons — by anchoring the full name around the four sides of the BEAD/arrow logo. The chevrons can then be used as actual directional prompts when used in city banners or construction walls or simply to point at information within a layout.
The need for stickers for businesses in the district to show their allegiance by placing them on their entrance, led us to this badge-like version of the logo where we did some more tricky letter-spacing to wrap the full name around the arrows which creates a nice, tight unit and that also allows the BEAD to start to be recognized for its diamond shape. It also turned out to make a killer pattern.
Both us and the client enjoy patterns so we made more.
We designed a very simple one-page website as most of the hardcore information lives within the city’s website, so this is literally a landing page to quickly highlight what the BEAD is about.
To launch the new identity, the city used most, if not all, of the street posts available for banners to highlight the areas that the district covers. The banners in the main square were designed to be “brand” banners while three other sets that ran across the main arteries of the district, highlighted specific businesses and amenities that you could find on each one. The list of “possibilities” is typeset in the same font size and line-height as the wordmark so the banners build up to the full name.
With so many patterns in play we couldn’t resist producing some one-off prototypes at Print All Over Me and strutting around town with them. Aside from personal amusement, the idea for this was that the BEAD could get a mannequin, dress it up in BEAD garb, and have different businesses host it. The idea remains to be implemented in action.
In the end, our hope is that we have created something that conveys the vibrancy of the district while providing the BEAD with a more robust presence so that Bloomington’s residents will more clearly associate the BEAD’s efforts with how much they are enjoying their time spent in the district day in and day out.