Branding the Built World

The difference between a great property and an exceptional brand is an emotional connection.

Emotional connections aren’t accidental—they’re built over time through intentional, engaging experiences. And the world’s strongest brands believe in the power of focus, clarity, and absolute consistency as a driver of experience.

A powerful brand is much more than a name, a logo, or a marketing campaign—it’s a foundational set of beliefs that support everything you do. And in the built world, your brand must inform every touchpoint from physical space to customer service standards and beyond.

Your brand is your north star—a guiding light that supports connections between urban planning, architecture, interior design, service design, community engagement, customer experience, workforce training, and communications strategy.

Consistent, engaging experiences require every aspect of customer experience to be in lockstep. And brand is the foundational platform upon which exceptional developments are built.

One Design collaborates with architects, developers, investors, and entrepreneurs to ensure brand is a consistent thread connecting every aspect of a development—from the physical space to the tenant experience to supporting communications.

The built world thrives at the convergence of research, architecture, design, service, communication, and technology. Our process is designed to unite disparate teams under a common vision throughout the lifecycle of a project. Given inherent complexities, teams shaping the built world are best served when brand strategy has a seat at the table from the start—at the moment of inception before the first plans are drawn.

Leveraging the human centered design methodologies, we help our collaborators understand market dynamics and uncover customer need. Brand Promise balances innovative thinking with data and fact-based insight. Design Principles define a holistic statement of project intent. Together, Brand Strategy unites the activities of planners, architects, and operating teams alike. And when everyone is aligned from the start throughout the lifecycle of a development, powerful, consistent, informed, and engaging experiences result.

We firmly believe in putting the inhabitants of the built world front and center.

Weaving together grand vision with the realities of the market dynamics and surrounding communities, our process allows our partners to address unmet need and explore opportunities for innovation. And by better understanding your place in the world, your space can perform better, engage more deeply, and stand out in an increasingly saturated market.

Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel—a one-of-its kind hospitality destination in Milwaukee
 David Mitchell

Saint Kate, the Arts Hotel

Brand strategy was a critical component of our collaboration with Marcus Hotels & Resorts and Stonehill Taylor Architects. Handed a blank slate in the form of a former Intercontinental Hotel, we were tasked with creating a “hotel that celebrates art” in the heart of a revitalized downtown Milwaukee. Our process resulted in a sharpened perspective that defined not only what an art hotel could be, but how an arts hotel should function in that specific market.

Saint Kate is a nod to Saint Catherine, the patron saint of artists and the artistic process

Only by understanding the local artistic community could we form a point of view on how an arts hotel could support the city while and opening doors for the curious traveler hungry for an experience. Identifying a need for a flexible venue that celebrated all modes of artistic expression—Saint Kate, a nod to Saint Catherine, Patron Saint of Artists—was born.

From public space and guest rooms, the hotel features the work of local makers and celebrated international artists alike
 David Mitchell

Creating space to “celebrate all modes of artistic expression” became the design brief for Stonehill Taylor. Meeting rooms now functioning as flexible black box theater space, complete with professional-grade lighting and audio. Gallery space abounds—complete with archival storage, humidity control, and museum-grade lighting—playing host to a rotating slate of exhibitions throughout the year. Flexible public space supports everything from classes to pop-up performances. And special space is carved out to support an ongoing artist-in-residence program.

Saint Kate’s Director of Programming ensure content is consistent, fresh, and engaging

The roles of Director of Programming and Curator were born from our brand strategy. Above and beyond the typical hospitality leadership team, these roles operationalized the need to keep arts-focused content fresh and exciting for guests from near and far alike.

The hotel is a high visibility venue for Milwaukee’s arts community, embracing the visual and performing arts in equal measure.

Engaging locals arts organizations—from the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra to Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design—was a deliberate gesture to the existing artistic community to leverage the hotel as a venue for artistic exploration. MOWA (Museum of Wisconsin Art) manages their first satellite location in the hotel. Guest rooms prominently feature the work of local artisans—from the work on the walls to the linens on the beds. And a reserved block of “Canvas” rooms are reimagined by a rotating cast of visual artists on a quarterly basis, with booking proceeds going to support local arts-focused non-profit charities.

To learn more about our award-winning work on Saint Kate, including a deep dive into the supporting communications strategy, follow the link.

Crafting a culinary destination

Through our ongoing collaborations with Keene and Megan Addington—founders of the legendary Flat Top Grill empire—we’ve made a habit out of leveraging the organizational power of brand to shape holistic food and beverage experiences.

Staff at Tortoise Supper Club in Chicago

Dine Well. Dine Together.

In 2016, we helped the hospitality duo reinvigorate their flagship independent restaurant in Chicago’s booming River North neighborhood. Leaning into their passion for community building while celebrating Chicago’s legendary culinary culture, we consulted on positioning strategy, service design, identity, and communications strategy. Reframing the restaurant as “Tortoise Supper Club,” we rallied around a celebration of the metropolitan supper clubs of yesterday, where midwestern comfort food comes together with community to create an urban vibe that’s distinctly Chicago.

Tortoise Supper Club, celebrating the classic metropolitan supper club experience in Chicago

The collaboration lead to an overhaul of service standards, a re-imagination of interior ambiance and atmosphere, new food and beverage programming, staff uniform standards, and more—not to mention a new identity and visual expression that celebrates the bespoke. This initiative helped to not only re-energize customer and staff members alike, but the restaurant’s newfound clarity and point of view literally moved financial performance metrics by significant measure.

Read more about our work on Tortoise Supper Club.

Two Lights Seafood and Oyster, Old Town Chicago

The sea lives in every one of us

In 2018 we helped the Addington’s create a new culinary destination in celebration of their annual summertime family retreats to the coast of Maine.

Two Lights Seafood and Oyster—a close collaboration between One Design, Northworks Architects, and the Addingtons—brings the spirit and flare of Portland, Maine to Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood.

Our approach to brand strategy helped uncover unmet need and opportunity in the neighborhood market, as well as create a blueprint for a blending the rugged East Coast with the Lake Michigan shore. A modern haven for rejuvenation—Two Lights Seafood and Oyster offers a space for respite in a neighborhood long known for it’s rowdy bar scene.

While visual identity, voice, and tone were directly inspired by the visual vernacular of Portland Maine, our work had a significantly deeper impact on the complete restaurant experience. The brand narrative provided foundational inspiration for the design of the space itself, weaving together a point of view on customer service with aesthetics and poetic narrative. Further, food programming, service standards, and atmosphere all found a common point of inspiration in the foundational brand strategy.

Read more about the award-winning Two Lights Seafood and Oyster.

The power of brand in the built world

The built world thrives at the convergence of research, architecture, design, service, communication, and technology; and your brand is the connective tissue between each element.

A strong brand unites. A strong brand inspires. A strong brand blends vision with user need to illuminate the path forward, creating synchronized teams and highly performant spaces in its wake. A strong brand emerges at the beginning, and is an invaluable tool throughout the journey.

Learn more about our process of branding the built world. Explore a case study below, or reach out and start the conversation!

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One Design Company is a research-driven design and development studio. For over a decade, we’ve explored the intersection of experience and technology—where powerful brands come to life. Want to learn more? Let’s chat.

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