Soup? Or nuts?

Brand Development with Mauge

My knack for building better brands owes a lot to Mauge, the Chicago outfit where I spent my early agency days. Our bread and butter was identity development, mainly for the booming residential real estate sector. 

Highlighted here is some of the work I’m most proud of from those days. And not just because of the output, but because of the people and the process that made it all possible. 

Milwaukee’s New Best

The Brief

Mention Milwaukee and two things spring to mind: beer and baseball. What doesn’t spring to mind is anything ra-sha-sha. But circa 2018, Milwaukee was seeing a surge of well-paid workers attracted to a growing creative scene and a lower cost-of-living compared to Chicago, two hours south.

Sensing an opportunity, local developers acquired a long-vacant office midrise, and a residential redevelopment project began. Thusly, Mauge was tasked with developing the identity of Milwaukee’s first Class A apartment tower.

The Name

With the name (and the brand), we needed to make a statement without ostracizing our audience. Waterfront aside, Milwaukee is not Miami. The brand had to feel like a product of the city, not of the other.  We anchored ourselves in the local, in the history of Place. 

Sometimes, it’s tough to get there. This time though, one name was far better than the rest. R2 revisions evaporated, the schedule breathed a sigh of relief, and The Buckler was born: the perfect name (we argued) because:

– The building was a few blocks away from the arena that’s home to Milwaukee’s beloved Bucks.

– A buckler is “a small round shield held by the handle or worn all the forearm,” a (very) sly nod to the building’s original occupant: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin

– “The Buckler” sounds classy as all get out but still totally approachable, which is exactly what Milwaukee had been craving.

The Mark

As with the name, the history of place runs through our design approach. The building cut a unique shape on the city grid: a sleek, black almost-box — square on three sides with a diagonal cut across the front facade, creating a large public plaza. These geometries were begging for graphic representation.

The other element begging for representation was the shield (or the buckler for those in the know). This theme takes inspiration from history by way of heraldry and cattle branding (this is cheese country, afterall).

A More Magnificent Mile

The Brief

The John Buck Company asked Mauge to tackle the name and identity of the latest gem in their real estate crown: a 41 story, 402 rental development in the Chicago Loop. Before this project, the two-mile stretch of Michigan Avenue through downtown Chicago hadn’t seen a new residential development since the Reagan Administration. 

In the world of high-end apartment jumping, this was big news. Ergo our target renter: the young, the wealthy, the transitional — a student at a nearby university or a freshly-minted MBA. The apartments were small but well-appointed. The location couldn’t be beat.

The Approach

We knew from the start that personification was the direction we wanted to take this project. Brands with personality and a story to tell were becoming de rigueur. And male names building names developments were everywhere: The Julian, The Jackson, The George. But women’s names? Not so much. A wrong we were determined to right.

We tried on Juliet and Jane, Kate and Clara, but everything either felt too bland or too princessy. But lo, the creative power of a few drinks and Google Maps. The solution was there all along: MILA, a portmanteau of Michigan and Lake, the building’s cross streets. I knew we had it, and the client agreed.

The Mark

In our design presentations, we do our best to present a range that meets the client’s expectations. Some clients are more conservative, others more willing to take risks. Regardless of where they fall, we wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t at least give them the option to take a risk. 

Fortunately, with this development, the client knew they had to lean forward and not backward. Gold leaf and scripts were scrapped and sleek modernism led the charge. So too, did the color eggplant.

Revitalize or Rebrand?

The Brief

Our task was to revitalize the identity of Onterie Center, a neglected but architecturally significant SOM high-rise in Chicago with 600 apartments, 150K square feet of commercial space, and a miserable reputation.

A change in ownership brought in new management with a mandate to overhaul and remarket the building, with an eye to the younger, transitional residents and the commercial tenants that catered to them. The ask included a new identity, brand, environmental graphics, and marketing collateral.

The Name

Our task was to revitalize the identity of Onterie Center, a neglected but architecturally significant SOM high-rise in Chicago with 600 apartments, 150K square feet of commercial space, and a miserable reputation.

A change in ownership brought in new management with a mandate to overhaul and remarket the building, with an eye to the younger, transitional residents and the commercial tenants that catered to them. The ask included a new identity, brand, environmental graphics, and marketing collateral.

Client

Reali, Inc.

Role

Head of Creative

What I Did

Concept. Design. Copy, in partnership with Juliet Fox.

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