Come to the river
In April 2018, architecture and urban design firm Studio Gang delivered a new concept plan for the Memphis riverfront. At the same moment, management of the parks system reorganized. The purpose and intent of all this change was to transform the Memphis riverfront into a city asset that promotes racial and economic equity and supports community development in adjacent neighborhoods.
OCD worked with incoming president and CEO, Carol Coletta, to develop brand strategy, naming, visual design, digital design, merchandising and a signage system that would welcome Memphians back to the river. Our work with Coletta on civic commons and creative placemaking dates back to 2011.
The new concept plan turned previously fragmented public property into one connected riverfront. The icon is a mini-map of the new configuration. It captures the six-mile River Line running through the five park districts: Greenbelt, Mud Island, Fourth Bluff, Big River and MLK.
The icon was driven by that tricky switchback at the hip of the path. That hitch informed type selection; Grilli Type's Haptik had a particularly evocative "R." And then the arches of the Hernando de Soto Bridge, the swirl of the river and the curve of Beale Street Landing informed the layout of the system.
Additional detail on brand strategy available in the Memphis Business Journal.
Memphis River Parks will celebrate its bicentennial in May 2019. A lot of signage had accumulated in that time. With Coletta, we mapped every federal, state, city, park and partner sign on the premise, then removed a great many and totally rebuilt the wayfinding and identification system based on plan mapped by local design agency Red Deluxe.
Memphians value the open space of the riverfront and more signage costs more money, so we kept the program as lean as possible and pushed to deliver a moment of delight whenever a decision-making point required a sign. No two signs are the same. The pieces are color-coded by district. And type reads backwards when you are exiting.
A large part of increasing riverfront accessibility was drawing a new parks map that included city landmarks, access streets, parking, fountains and bathrooms. Sign design and fabrication was developed in partnership with design studio afreeman. Q&A with Jennifer Kinon and Andrew Freeman.