Branding a Space

Kizzy Downie provides insider advice for creating a branded experience in a physical place.


At 5 by 5 Design we believe it’s possible to change the world by posing the right questions, listening to the honest answers, and following the path that emerges from the dialogue. Because branding takes on many shapes and sizes, today we’re tackling the subject of branding a space.

As CEO of Model Cities, Kizzy Downie has recently experienced first-hand the joys and challenges of branding a space. The new Reading Room at BROWNstone was created to honor the rich history of the community while creating an inviting space to support its mission—to provide social and economic prosperity through access to opportunity. Here’s what she had to say about her experience.

What do you need to know before you start the process of branding a space?

Branding a space really requires you to think about who the audience will be and what experience you want them to have as they interact with the space. Most importantly, it requires you to understand the story or narrative that gives meaning to the space.

2. Why did you feel The Reading Room needed a brand that was different from the Model Cities brand?

The Reading Room is a very unique space that captures a much different story than that of Model Cities. The space explores the story of Pullman Porters who were African American men who served as caretakers on luxury trains that traveled across the U.S. Their struggle for dignity, better working conditions, and better wages inspired many of the movements for equality that we’ve experienced or read about over the years. We felt that the Reading Room needed its own identity in order to best capture this story.

3. How have you measured if the space has been successful?

The collaboration with artists, educators, community members, and other partners was our measure of success for the space during its creation. That process gave us the opportunity to create the space using the knowledge, skills, and creativity of people from various backgrounds and disciplines.

Now that the space is open, we’ll measure the success by measuring the users’ experience when they visit the space, as well as, by our ability to attract new exhibits, programming, and other activities to the space.

4. What unique challenges did you encounter in creating your new space?

To be honest, it was a lot more challenging than I could have imagined. The process required a lot more time, patience, energy, and resources than I initially predicted.

The biggest challenge we faced revolved around balancing the diverse needs and expectations of funders, consultants, project partners, and others involved in the project. Fortunately, we were able to engage consultants/partners who helped us meet many of these needs and who valued our perspective and vision for the space.

5. What advice would you give others who need to brand a space?

I’d recommend engaging a consultant or third party early in the planning process of your project. They will help you avoid wasting a lot of time and money.

Did this spark an idea? Let's talk!

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