Stone Gardens Climbing Gym
Stone Gardens Climbing Gym, founded in 1995, is among the oldest in the Seattle area and helped spur the popularity of indoor climbing nationally. However, the brand hasn’t been updated since its founding and looks firmly dated in 1995. The gym runs the risk of losing relevance in a city with multiple newer and sleeker climbing gyms competing for members. We sought to give the brand resonance with the current market as well as preserve an authentic connection to the community behind it.
We crafted a unique look that reflects the current community behind the brand, while maintaining the authentic, DIY passion that has defined Stone Gardens since the beginning. We found an opportunity to position Stone Gardens as the premier climbing gym for friendly, advanced and dedicated climbers in the Seattle Area. Organic shapes, contour-line illustrations and vibrant, nature-inspired colors bring the gym’s brand into the 21st century while maintaining its beloved retro soul.
Brand Grip Points
Whether tucked into a wallet or strapped onto a belt, the brand becomes a part of member’s lives. Expressiveness of the brand was modulated to the function of the application. For example, the identity suite presents a restrained brand expression, whereas the chalk bag, not so much.
Guiding the Designer
This project culminated into a definitive Brand Guide. The goal of the book is to communicate the spirit of the business in every aspect of its design, lead by our brand characteristics of Community, Alternative and Challenging.
Our first move was the most obvious: Go climbing! After quickly realizing how out of shape we were, we interviewed customers and staff about their experience of Stone Gardens, as well as what it meant to them. One recurring refrain that stuck with us was how proud members were that the route ratings were “not inflated.” Other gyms, we were told, inflate ratings to make climbers feel more accomplished than they are. But at Stone Gardens people loved an honest challenge.
Stone Gardens faces four primary competitors in the Seattle metro area. Relative newcomer gyms such as Seattle Bouldering Project and Momentum have carved out a chunk of the local climbing market. The oldest gym in the area, Vertical World has undergone its own modernized re-branding. We evaluated the Stone Gardens brand mark against the others and itself. We determined what was working and not working for the brand.
- Tokenizing/Trend of the 90’s
- Poor H1/H2 agreement
Generating Brand Characteristics
With interviews of employees and patrons in hand, we generated dozens of words that decribed the gym’s brand. Finally we arrived at three primary brand characteristics with groupings beneath them.
Our brand characteristics were:
Visualizing Brand Characteristics
The visual language of each brand characteristic was explored. Observing patterns and overlapping themes across our characteristics, we combined all three into a single moodboard that formed the first visual declaration of our brand voice.
Moodboard & Insight
At this stage we gained insight into the mission of our rebrand. Brand characteristics were mixed into the moodboard in the proportions below, which aimed to differentiate the brand from its competitors by speaking to the community of advanced, committed climbers who were drawn to the challenge of climbing. We chose “Step Up” as our tagline to emphasize the distinct dedication to climbing within the Stone Gardens community. Organic shapes, bright, analogous colors and energized imagery reflect the no-fuss, DIY passion that we witnessed at the gym.
- 60% Challenging
- 30% Community
- 10% Alternative
Vibrant, organic colors inspired by naturally occurring rocks such as Basalt, Chalk, Sandstone, Rhyolite and Arcose demonstrate the appreciation for natural environments held by the Stone Gardens community. An energetic orange and red represent an active passion for climbing, while off-white, off-black and Sandstone reflect a down-to-earth love for the outdoors.
Logo Family Process
The logo presented an ongoing challenge for us as we explored easily over one-hundred different options. We’ll spare you the details. But in the end it was two small scribbles of gripping fingers that took us home. After more than two months of slogging, we arrived at our final brand mark. We are proud to say that the effort was well spent.
Patterns, Textures and Illustrations
Abstracted shapes taken from the climbing wall hand-holds evolved into our pattern. Graphite contour drawings of bruised hands became web graphics. A fine, chalk-like texture brought a climbing gym feel to each brand touch point. My project partner Valerie designed the rock pattern, and I made the graphic assets below.
Reflections & Acknowledgements
This project spurred significant growth and tenacity in me as a designer. It was an honor to work with my project partner, Valerie, as she contributed greatly at every stage and elevated my abilities with her own.
I learned that in order to speak clearly as a designer, one has to know what they are saying to begin with. This project came to life once we understood the true purpose behind it, which was to reflect the current community behind the brand and position Stone Gardens as the gym of experience, commitment and challenge. I believe we succeeded in that endevour.