role: Creative Director, copywriter
Like many cities and towns, the idea of branding the city became a thing early in the first term of Stamford’s new mayor, David Martin, elected in 2015. By 2016, funds were allocated, and sticker shock ensued. It seemed that the government representatives couldn’t bring themselves to allocate budget funds for the marketing of the city. Did I mention that this is Connecticut, the land of steady habits?
Despite a deep discount from a local marketing agency, the project faltered due to disagreement with the committee tasked with leading the project. Fortunately, I stepped in and rewrote the creative brief, touching on the things the committee, and the elected officials, agreed were the main values they cherished about the city of Stamford.
To say that design by committee is prone to settle on the blandest of design is the world’s biggest understatement. But I had an angle to work with, and that was that Stamford has a collection of buildings designed by world-famous architects yet are collectively known as “ugly” buildings. The story I told to the committee was, of course, how Parisians rejected the most iconic structure in Paris when it was first built. The story of Gustave Eiffel and his iron tower for the World Exposition of 1889 is legendary enough. But I drove the point that branding is about being unique and true to conditions. Architecture that is unique to a city, like the Shard in London, the Sydney Opera House, the Empire State Building in NYC, and the John Hancock Tower in Chicago, symbolize those cities in many ways. Stamford had a few iconic buildings, and once examined in silhouette form, two stood out as buildings people recognized as being in Stamford. Which also meant nowhere else.
From there, using the buildings together in a park-like setting next to the water, positioned all the elements that Stamford represented. A city that prided itself on the educated workforce that populated all the office buildings yet offered a quality of life and recreation that is attainable. While many towns in Connecticut could lay claim to being coastal, suburban, or rich with culture. Only one could claim the iconic office buildings that most see from car windows traveling down I-95 or the train windows of Metro North.
Stamford was more than its previous tagline of “the city that works.” As one of the oldest settlements in Connecticut, it had a historical place in the state’s growth. It needed to convey that history, and pay tribute to the many innovative products invented in Stamford. The “innovating since 1641” in a hand-scrawled typeface completed the rebrand.