Branded environments design and
placemaking: how to connect people to place

Brand lies at the heart of any successful placemaking strategy. Designing a branded environment goes way beyond the application of a logo or a piece of wayfinding, which can often feel inauthentic or tokenistic.

Instead, creating a branded environment impacts how people use, remember and connect with place and, when done well, delivers enduring value and economic benefit.

When it comes to establishing a brand for the built environment – whether that’s a new community, major transit hub or urban centre – it instils a sense of place and belonging.

What is

No longer a fashionable theory – placemaking is a strategic activity that can add value to and differentiate an asset or whole urban precinct. Placemaking has only become a mainstream design and planning discipline over the past 10 years – and it can mean many different things to different people.

Formally defined, it is ‘the collaborative process of creating, enhancing and managing people-focused places that respect and respond to the local context; physical, social, political, cultural and economic’. *

Every place has its own story, its unique meaning, and therefore it comes down to the execution of a brand to create this connection.

Why branded
environments matter

When a brand is executed well, it can reflect a point of view, a sense of place, and tells a story that connects the user to where they are.

Let’s look at Commercial Bay as an example. Touted as the most transformational precinct Auckland has ever seen, Commercial Bay has injected new energy into the city and features office, internationally renowned retail, public space and high-end hospitality. A key part of Auckland’s thriving CBD, it re-establishes the area as a mecca for business, retail, leisure and wellness.

The focal point of the new urban landscape is a 39-storey office tower dubbed the PwC Tower with bars, eateries and shops making up the base, and pristine bay views to the north, east and west.

At the precinct’s conceptual stage, Diadem developed a user-oriented strategy, taking into consideration the many different user types to ensure users such as people commuting through as well as those working within the precinct might transition from business to leisure. The final result is a beautiful user-led wayfinding solution that unifies the area and creates a sense of meaning and place.

Chevrons taken from the site’s architecture are displayed on the glass light boxes, and the Avant-garde gothic font brings a sense of nostalgia while delivering optimum legibility.

In the PwC Tower lobby, the digital directory aligns with the building’s architecture and engages patrons by displaying news and weather updates, event information and art, and also serves as an emergency information system.

From the excess materials left on-site post-excavation, Diadem designed a ‘heritage wall’, where video is used to showcase the history of Commercial Bay. Diadem also executed the PwC sky sign on the northern face of the tower, which is the biggest PwC sign in Australasia.

Commercial Bay

The power
of storytelling

Significant narratives of the site offer opportunities to tell brand stories in ways that generate interest and create activation and connection.

Delivering a considered approach to brand and placemaking will increase foot traffic, guide behaviour, drive economic benefit, attract investment and assist in the regeneration of urban and built outcomes.

A brand can be embedded in ways that not only define the site but can create memorable experiences and guide behaviours. Branded environments help places transition from built form to becoming contextually and environmentally relevant.

* Knight ‘Soul of the Community’ 2008-2010


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