How Frank Lloyd Wright ate his porkpie hat

Civic brand for the community of Oak Park, IL

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Oak Park, IL, is four square miles of hallowed ground—the epicenter of modernist architecture and letters, home to Frank Lloyd Wright, Ernest Hemingway, and Doris Humphrey. To reposition the community for a new generation of creative thinkers and doers, we’d have to come in the spirit of reverence.

But we didn’t.

Ummo saw the rebrand as a pivotal moment—a time to fundamentally reimagine what Oak Park of the future will be to Oak Parkers of the future. To find a common language in which to speak about the community, we worked with seven disparate municipal stakeholders, from arts to housing to tourism attraction to economic development. This made our jobs seven times more challenging and its results about seven million times more meaningful.

The new brand was structured around a simple insight: rather than that one thing, Oak Park had this and that. In the dozens of community meetings we conducted, we kept hearing the “yes, and” pattern often associated with the back-and-forth banter of sketch comedy—we’ve got transit and cycling, schools and shops, diversity and history. Yes, we’ve got Frank and we’ve got Ludacris.

“Optimistic
snark”

The tone of the brand, according to a review in the local newspaper.

We translated this insight into a series of irreverent, surprising visual and verbal mashups that both built on the audience’s knowledge of Oak Park’s legacy and subverted that knowledge. Organized by a limited palette of vibrant colors and opinionated type, the identity cut straight to the chase. But despite its deceiving simplicity, it needed the breadth to speak both to real estate developers and high school students. (Both demographics advised our team on the project, and both greeted the work with enthusiasm.) The full identity suite demonstrated the remarkable breadth of the platform, from expressions—like incongruously mashed-up media quotes about Oak Park—that elicited giggles, to understated prospectuses for real estate investors. And, along with guidelines, we left the community with a brand filter that lets future marketers evolve and attune the brand, while keeping its heart in the right place.

Totes—How could we forget Wright and Hemingway? Those two got an irreverent update as part of the rebrand.

Guidelines—Thorough guidelines enable multiple organizations in Oak Park to share a visual and editorial language.

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Project

Civic brand for the community of Oak Park, IL

Scope

  • Strategy,
  • identity,
  • physical,
  • digital,
  • editorial

Typology

  • Civic,
  • placemaking,
  • culture,
  • urban

Client

Oak Park Economic Development Corporation with a consortium of municipal agencies

Credits

Local partner a5, completed while at Sasaki

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