The rebrand of San Francisco’s Pier 70 combats residents’ fears the city is “losing its soul”
Faced with the identity for yet another industrial redevelopment in a changing city, design studio dn&co took a sensitive approach.
- Jenny Brewer
- 28 April 2020
Pier 70 in San Francisco was once one of the most prominent industrial centres in America, but since the shipyard shut down in the 70s, the city around it has changed beyond recognition. Now the centre of a $120 million, 15-year regeneration project, the development was sure to stir up fierce debates among locals about the city’s identity – or loss of it – so its developers enlisted design studio dn&co to create its visual language.
This is perhaps unexpected, given the studio is London-based and hadn’t worked in the US before, but its founding director Joy Nazzari is in fact a San Francisco native who could bring both empathy and experience of designing in a city rife with redevelopment.
“With San Franciscans debating rising inequality and the exclusivity of new developments, it was important to us to be sensitive to how locals felt about San Francisco, and about Pier 70 itself,” explains Nazzari. The studio was approached to create a brand that communicated the shipyard’s history and creative neighbourhood. Its brand identity, therefore, looked to celebrate “the things that have always made San Francisco great,” she says, “creativity, inclusivity and its relationship to the Bay,” drawing from its industrial past “without verging on the cliche”.
The project began by the dn&co conducting a survey of over 150 San Franciscans, who broadly felt a similar grievance for the city. “We spent weeks talking to the people of San Francisco, and it became apparent that they felt the city was losing its soul,” strategist Luis Mendoza tells us. “People were proud of the city’s funky history, and its incredible natural and architectural beauty, but there was also an undercurrent of fear for those things being lost or forgotten. The interviews inspired us to focus on the qualities that make this one of the most magnificent cities in the world. They also informed our decision to build a visual language based on the historical buildings that will be restored as part of the redevelopment as these will be so integral to the new place.“
Therefore the brand marque takes inspiration from a 153-ton building frame known as Building 15, which previously sat on the shipyard and will serve as the main entrance into the neighbourhood. “It felt befitting to highlight this re-appropriated historic structure as a key part of the visual identity,” creative director Patrick Eley adds. “It’s a landmark that nods to Pier 70’s past while looking ahead to its future.” This marque appears in print, animation and physical signage, wherein it is cut out of metal or stencilled.
From this the team also developed a pattern language that takes cues from the industrial workplace, from bright chevron-painted I-beams to safety lines used to mark and highlight factory machinery. The patterns are flexible in scale, weight and line frequency, allowing for “muted and energetic expression” across the identity, Eley says. The colour palette mixes bright pink, orange and blue to reference the city’s sunlight and bay area, with muted neutrals derived from the original architecture.
The display typeface is Druk by Commercial Type, inspired by ‘ghost signs’ found around the redevelopment site, which were eclectic to say the least. Druk hopes to echo the character of the historic shipyard, with its “impactful, machined, flat-sided forms,” explains design director Sam Jones, and range of styles from compressed to widened cuts. GT America is used as a support typeface for text copy, “another large type family with subtle quirks across letterforms,” Jones says.
Dn&co has positioned the brand identity as “Made of San Francisco” and has put in the work to build the city and its soul into the graphic language, but it remains to be seen how locals will feel about the new addition to their landscape.