Here at St. Bernadine we encounter branding projects of all shapes and sizes. Over the years we have branded everything from packaged goods, beverages, and services, to restaurants, retail spaces and, most recently, a public space. A public space is hard to define, and it certainly does not fit into a box the way a pizza does. But branding can be used to help give a place a sense of space and make it feel special. Giving a place an identity can make an undefined or disparate place feel like more of a destination, heighten the experience, and ultimately bring more traffic to the area.
Ten years ago, Railspur Alley on the east side of Granville Island was re-developed and its industrial buildings were transformed into working artist studios. Today, Railspur Alley is home to a diverse collection of extremely talented artists and artisans who make treasures like sake, leather belts, bags, and custom jewellery. You have probably been to or passed through Railspur Alley and not even known you were there. And if you did visit, you’d probably be surprised at how quiet it is compared to the other side of the Island. To mark the 10-year anniversary of Railspur Alley’s redevelopment, we set out to create an identity for it that would bring more people to the area and, when they were there, help create a feeling that they were somewhere special.
We began by taking a closer look at Railspur and what it had to offer and comparing that against an exhaustive competitive set. From there, we determined its competitive advantage and used this as a basis for creating a brand blueprint. And with the research and strategy firmly in place, we began making changes.
To start off, we renamed the area Railspur District to encompass all of the businesses in the area rather than only those in the alley. We also defined it as a “shopping district” to give people a clear idea of what they would find there and position Railspur District as the best place in Vancouver to shop for truly unique and one-of-a-kind items. We then developed a logo and colour palette that complemented the Granville Island identity while still feeling unique to Railspur District. Using colour, we started to define the area by putting up street banners and we began work on a giant mural to direct visitors to the area that is being built by artisans from the District. When it’s finished this Spring, it will be pretty spectacular! We also created re-usable bags, door signs, and other collateral for the tenants to display and before you knew it, the tenants were excited and Railspur District was really starting to feel more like the special place it was – one that the artists and artisans already knew existed.
Over the coming months, more elements will be rolling out that continue to create a distinct identity for Railspur District. In the future, keep an eye out for vibrant purple light posts and maybe even purple benches so that you can sit and stay a while when you visit the Railspur District.
To view our recent work for Railspur District, check out our work samples.