What does it mean to apply a brand to an entire district?

Within that district is a huge variety of retail, offices, banks, hotels, condominiums and other businesses. Not one of these businesses or people would probably appreciate an external source applying a brand to them without spending a great deal of time learning about their business or who they are. The process required us to discover the commonality between every business, and really every person on West End. We needed to develop a message that every business and individual on West End would be willing to support. Other business districts in Nashville have found great success from being branded, so the one thing that we knew for sure at the beginning of this process was that the West End district would like to be a part of the trend that is defining Nashville and all of its districts.

The Competition

Other districts in Nashville are seeing great benefits from a brand identity, with SoBro being the most successful. SoBro, short for South Broadway is a nickname that has become synonymous with the area. The name that started as an abbreviation has become a cultural icon to both locals and tourists. The name conjures images of live music, food, and shopping. Lower Broadway is also known for a variety of tourist attractions. Another district gaining ground with a brand that is developing into a cultural reference is WeHo, short for Wedgewood/Houston. This district is built on the “maker” community that is growing in the area. We set out to make all of the elements that make West End stand apart from other districts integral to the final logo and name.

The Features

After studying the competition it was time to study West End and focus on the features of the area that set it apart, and that make it a ‘Must Visit’ destination. West End offers great shopping, bars and restaurants, and a variety of living spaces including houses, condos, and apartments. The most unique feature to West End is Centennial Park. This park is the largest green space in the city and it features the Parthenon, a destination for both tourists and locals.

The other feature that had great impact on our brainstorming sessions was the fact that this district had already proven itself to be an area where businesses and individuals that live in the district are ready to come together for the betterment of West End. Metro Transit Authority (MTA) was considering a mass transit system, called The Amp, that would run right down the middle of West End Avenue. While Nashville needs more mass transit options, this particular idea would have been detrimental to business on West End. So locals and businesses banned together to make their concerns heard and the project was eventually discontinued. So the fact that businesses and consumers are so team driven must be considered a key feature of the district.

The Brand

Initially we were tasked with simply branding the association of businesses that had formed in the district. After an extensive discovery session and much brainstorming it became clear that branding the entire district was key. The association, known as the West End Business Association, would simply adopt the branding that we applied to the district.

The primary factors that went into the branding were the community mentality of the businesses, the park, and the fact that this district also offers every other amenity available in other already branded districts. The street name already has a reputation in the city, so keeping “West End” as part of the new brand was also an important consideration. The West End area is already a popular destination, so the goal was to build this new brand identity without alienating those that already patronize the area.

Often times branding brainstorm sessions begin with overly complicated ideas. This branding project was no different. It’s important to rip away the ornamentation and drill down to the core of a brand. A logo or a brand name can’t represent an entire brand mission. The name and logo should quickly share the brand’s basic philosophy and it should build curiosity. If the logo and name successfully inspires curiosity, the complete brand message should be available other places such as on a website.

After digging through a gaggle of name options we decided on the obvious; WE. Part of what makes WE work is the message that goes with it. Sure WE is short for West End and that’s great, but WE as a word also properly represents the district. The word “We” infers an all-encompassing group rather than a collection of individuals. The businesses in this district have shown, and continue to show, that they are ready to be all encompassing rather than simply competitors. WE still maintains West End within the brand so everyone that already loves the area can still see their beloved West End as part of the brand.

A tagline for WE was next on the agenda once everyone had agreed on the name. The tagline had to be short, memorable, and it had to sell the district along with the title. Taglines come together in many different ways. In this case during a brainstorming session someone said “We have everything on West End.” That line was eventually refined to “We have it” with an alternate version that read “We have it on West End.” The tagline quickly says if you want it, we have it right here on West End.

The Logo

We follow the trends just like everyone else, but we don’t design for them. Our approach is to design a clean resilient logo that can be applied to whatever the current trend is. You could call this the Nike effect. The Nike logo has been basically the same since it was created. That logo can be applied to other design elements that fall in line with current trends, but it’s still clean and recognizable. With this logo we wanted a focus to be on viral adoption. Since this was to be a brand for an entire district the brand needs to be adopted by locals. Eventually you’d hope to hear locals using the brand as slang for the area similar to what is already happening with other districts in the city such as SoBro. So the logo needed to fall in line with the brand name as far as inspiring curiosity.

For credibility the logo needed a concept; it needed a back-story that represents the area. If a pedestrian were to see the logo on the street for the first time it needed to inspire them to go to the website and investigate. If a pedestrian opened the website a concept needed to be laid out there to give the design credibility. So we asked ourselves what do we want the logo to say? The base reason for going through this whole process was to get people talking about West End. The idea of getting people talking, or starting a conversation became the basis of the logo design.

The familiar chat bubble that we all know from mobile devices became the core element of the design. Placing a clean customized version of WE inside the bubble yielded the clean resilient logo we were hoping for. “Start the conversation” became the key concept behind the logo design. Let’s talk about West End. Other elements of the design, such as the placement of the chat point and the color added more depth of concept to the design. The chat point is designed to point west, again hinting to the West End connection, and the color green made since because within all of the urban amenities is this amazing green space.

The Result

WE is a new brand for Nashville that we are extremely proud of. Many hours of design, brainstorming, and writing went into the project. Creative work is extremely subjective and often clients see a clean and simple name and design, but they don’t understand how it should take so much time and energy to create. The truth is simple and clean can often be much more challenging than something more gaudy and on the nose.