What makes New York City great? Is it the diversity of people? The wide array of cultural destinations? The city’s ability to offer you practically anything you want at any time of day, for any reason? Ask a bunch of New Yorkers and they’ll surely all give you different answers on why they are in love with the city they call home. And while it appears that New York is a self-sustaining machine that’s great simply because it’s supposed to be, there are a tremendous amount of people and resources working behind the scenes to ensure the city’s cultural and economic vitality remains intact.
As part of our studio culture, we are constantly seeking out opportunities to engage with our city and support the people who are working day in and day out to maintain its greatness. We’ve had the good fortune to be able to work with some of those organizations in our studio’s Flatiron District neighborhood, as well as with organizations in the Lower East Side and Staten Island, two communities that some of our team members hold near and dear.
Over the past three years, we’ve been invited by the Flatiron 23rd Street Partnership to lead public discussions on a variety of branding- and design-related topics as part of their Flatiron Summer Series programming, a series of free events that anyone can attend. The Partnership is one of NYC’s 75 Business Improvement Districts, more commonly referred to as BIDs. While the work of BIDs can range from street cleaning and beautification to capital improvements and business development, some of their most important work is in their public programing.
This year we organized two talks for our local BID’s Tech Tuesday speaking series: a panel discussion offering a fresh look at Millennials from the standpoint of the world they are inheriting; and a discussion on how design can be used to help Americans become better citizens. Organizing these events has been an extremely fulfilling experience that has made it possible for us to give back and engage with our neighbors in the community we call home.
In the Lower East Side, which both our Creative Director and Art Director have called home, we worked with the Lower East Side Partnership (another BID) on developing a brand identity for the 100 Gates Project. This community beautification and graffiti deterrent initiative, which grew organically from a local skater wanting to help out his neighborhood, pairs artists and business owners to create murals on the security roll-down gates of businesses.
A large part of the process in our branding efforts for 100 Gates was to engage with local business owners, artists, and other community stakeholders to help understand and articulate the impact this program has had in their neighborhood. Due in part to these efforts and the tremendous work of the Lower East Side Partnership, this homegrown program has since expanded into Harlem and Staten Island, and hopes to move into many other neighborhoods.
We have also had the pleasure of working on Staten Island – hometown of our designer Wednesday Krus, – with the borough’s Chamber of Commerce on branding the neighborhoods of Stapleton, St. George and Tompkinsville, collectively as ‘Downtown Staten Island.’ It was important for us to have a strong understanding of each neighborhood’s individual challenges, characteristics and attributes, knowing that we weren’t creating new communities but rather highlighting and bringing awareness to the wide range of experiences that three existing, distinct places had to offer.
To accomplish this, we had many conversations with a diverse group of community members and also hosted a day-long workshop with local cultural leaders. We tasked them with envisioning ways in which they wanted the rest of the world to see and understand their neighborhoods. What resulted is a flexible and unique brand system that pays homage to the people, places and culture in all three neighborhoods while supporting the Chamber’s efforts to improve the economic and cultural climate of Downtown Staten Island and the rest of the borough.
New York City is the greatest city in the world because there are a lot of hardworking people from all walks of life ensuring that it stays that way. It takes communication, planning and engagement to keep things thriving and moving, and at the heart of those tasks are New York City’s BIDs and community-focused organizations. We are committed to seeking out new opportunities to lend our support to our fellow New Yorkers through these types of projects, and inspire others to do the same!