Home: the house where the heart is.
Speaking of the idea of branding, and the heart of the matter, the idea of exploring the nature of spirit in place couldn’t be more intimate than a place that people call their home — a house, a place of holding and containment.
Over time, we’ve created icons and treatments in exploring how people can create more personalized experiences in presenting their property to family, guests and visitors. This might be something that ranges to more of a commercial enterprise, an estate — specifically for visitors and guests, or it might be something that is merely a property with such intrinsic personal resonance that the idea of naming it and creating a “brand” strategy to reflect the enjoyment of that place in a manner that is deeper than merely calling it home.
Over time, working with clients around the world, Girvin has worked on projects that are both professionally aligned, for hospitality and experience design, as well as personal assignments. While as a college student, paying for supporting my tuition, I did hand-lettered signs for boats, houses, gates and ingress for properties, but the first real branded estate I worked on was a Greene & Greene brothers-inspired conclave, designed by the now-deceased Seattle architect James Hamilton. That project, as a succession of developed buildings, was initiated on Blakely Island, in San Juan County, by Seattle developer, Jon Runstad and his wife Judith.
Called Whaleback, based on the humped curvature of a foundational siting view of the property, Girvin designed the logo, signing, stationery, clothing and simple amenities for the compound, as well as livery for their aquatic airplane, a classic Alaskan “Beaver.” Everything was drawn by hand — a broad-edged tool for the typography, and the Japanese brushes for the rendering of the breaching whales.
Working on that property led to others, and in keeping with the exploration of branding initiatives and the idea of creating brands for “places,” Girvin was commissioned in 2009 to orchestrate another property branding assignment for Jeremy and Jacquelyn Jaech. Girvin has a long legacy in partnering with Mr. Jaech as a branding, consulting resource, first as the technology founder of Adobe’s desktop publishing software group, formerly known as Aldus, as well as his efforts in the creation of the drag-and-drop draw visioning software technology known as Visio. He is currently the CEO of Verdiem, while Jacquelyn Jaech, his wife, a inspired, self-taught designer, has been working as the creative director of their property, H A R M O N Y.
The sensibility of balance and alignment
Girvin’s role was to visit the property and look for a path to illustratively render the spirit of their vision for this calming retreat, guest house, main structure and adjoining quarters, located in eastern Washington.
The process, like any branding program, is really about finding the heart of the place, and listening carefully to the founding leadership — here, the Jaech’s — and the particular sentiments of their aesthetic sensibilities.
Given their spectacularly inventive creative drive, working with them was really about the interpretation of their dream and vision, rather than inherently directing the design ideals of a framed branding inspiration or a future vision of commerce in action. This is for them, by them, celebrating them. Here, the principles spoke to the gathering of sensibilities for their house and land, what that stood for, what they were trying to accomplish, and how this could be reflected in a single treatment of letterforms and symbolic designs. Still, there is a process — and considering our fascination with the idea of capturing the spirit of place, as well as enthralling and captivating an audience, the guests themselves — parts of this exploration are shown below.
As in any study, the idea lends itself a sequencing of comprehension. Flying with Jeremy, who’s also a pilot, I visited the property, met with Jacquelyn, organized and photographed an overview of the details of the site, the interiors, the character of the house and the land. That idea of reaching into the place, feeling it out, listening to it, and gathering a sensitivity to it will lend richness and detail to external visualization. Know more, design better, know the place, tell the story of the place.
Examining the siting and sense of placement
Here is more to the telling — thinking about the idea: place, heart, hearth, happiness.
Exploring materials and details
A gathering of materials and applications, light and finishes, while the property was under construction
Girvin has developed a series of customized, hand-built fonts that we use to explore holistic typographic applications in identity, or we build custom type faces for clients and projects simply because they need to be made. While there are thousands of fonts in the global mix of typographic founderies, we believe in making our own. If you can’t own it, why do it? That would be the basic foundation of any form of design — made, specially, for the user.
Seeing what we know, have seen, have experienced, in terms of the identity of place, the idea emerged to respond to the hand-wrought — the textured, the flowing and the beautiful — elements that combined the sentiments of the Jaech’s interests, as well as qualities of the designed site and architecture.
Some of the design treatments — hand crafted fonts and symbols — that were explored
Given the idea of special places for guests to stay, each being an element of the concept of presence and elemental power: fire, water, earth, air, we created treatments specifically to match this quality — matching the drawn style, for each solution under study.
Final renderings and coloration studies
Why brand? Why call this idea of strategy of design, brand(ing)? This is all about heart and hearth, it’s all about gathering and sharing of these sentiments with partners, lovers, family and friends. And brand lives in that place of warming influence — the flow of sharing ideas. Brand, truly, is all about warmth and sharing — it is inherently human storytelling. And the sharing of these experiences.
What is place in relationship to brand?
From the most recent exposure, Old English it is an “open space in a city, market place, square,” from the Old French place, from Medieval Latin placea “place, spot,” from the Latin platea “courtyard, open space, broad street,” from the Greek plateia (hodos) a “broad (way),” feminine of platys “broad,” from the ancient Proto Indo European seed roots of *plat- “to spread” (cf. Sanskrit prathati “spreads out;” to the ancient Hittite palhi “broad;” the Lithuanian platus “broad;” German Fladen “flat cake;” Old Irish lethan “broad”); extended variant form of base *pele- (see plane (1)). Replacing Old English stow and stede. Wide application in English, covering meanings that in French require three words: place, lieu, and endroit. Cognate with the Italian piazza and the Spanish plaza retaining more of the etymological sense. The larger, broader sense of the word is to the sense of “material space, dimension of defined or indefinite extent” which is the latest reflection from the mid-13th century. A place, a plane of meeting, a plateau — but a point of gathering and encounter. Brand, if you’ve sought the answer, could be found in earlier Girvin blogs, as the link notes.
Place is where one stands, the circle of sense that surrounds you, and the spirit that guides your sensation of presence there. That idea of there, is here. And the concept of being here — being in the place is, for the moment — the quality of being present, focused and attuned to what it is to be connected to that place. Being in the center, the nexus, the x|crossroads, where things, people, you — meet.
Anything we do is about collaboration. That, in itself, is an honor.
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