Brand New West: Time to tell the world about the new New West

Despite a host of great amenities contributing to a strong quality of life, a mixture of heritage and modern architecture and a beautiful location along the Fraser, New West doesn’t distinguish its own distinct identity, independent of being a suburb of Vancouver as well as it could. For many unaware of the new New West, the city is still synonymous with bridal shops, sketchy transit stations, a love affair with its own history and rough pubs. As a proud resident of New West, I often find [...]

While heavyweight cities such as New York and Paris have iconic buildings and centuries of thriving culture to convey their identity and sense of place, smaller less-prominent cities must rely on other measures of soft power such as music festivals, public art projects, easy-to-use bike share systems or other unique methods of building their municipal brand. Though branding on a city scale may seem artificial or contrived, it is an important part of attracting new residents and businesses and building a sense of identity – conveying who we are and what we stand for.

Despite a host of great amenities contributing to a strong quality of life, a mixture of heritage and modern architecture and a beautiful location along the Fraser, New West doesn’t distinguish its own distinct identity, independent of being a suburb of Vancouver as well as it could. For many unaware of the new New West, the city is still synonymous with bridal shops, sketchy transit stations, a love affair with its own history and rough pubs. As a proud resident of New West, I often find myself explaining what life is actually like here, giving friends an idea of what brand Nouveau West stands for. Few are aware of the transformation that has been underway for some time and are astonished to hear about a waterfront park, busy market, improved culinary landscape and diverse population.

Much of this misguided perception is due in part to a tug of war mentality between what New West was – a quaint mill city with royal roots – and what it has become – a dense, diverse and increasingly more interesting place to live. In many ways, New West’s reinvention is similar to that of many smaller rust belt cities in the states that have used their industrial pasts to attract young diverse population of entrepreneurs, artists and others in the creative industry.

Though almost three times as big as New West, Chattanooga, the fourth largest city in the state of Tennessee, is using its look to improve its brand – the look of its communications that is. For just over a year, local typeface designers Robbie de Villiers and Jeremy Dooley have been developing Chatype, a font developed in Chattanooga for Chattanooga.

Both established and accomplished designers, the pair felt that the time was right for Chattanooga to have its own font, to improve its branding and to help convey the energy in the city. Not wanting to ignore the city’s past, de Villiers and Dooley consulted with historians to consider important historical influences on the design of the font. In Chatype, they incorporated aspects of Chattanooga’s industrial past, while giving it clean lines and a modern touch that allude to the city’s creative future.

While the font is still in development, it has garnered much support from the local and international community. The city itself hopes to use it in their communications – from bike lanes and streets signs, to city memos and other documents. Local businesses as well will have the opportunity to use the font for their own signage, bringing visual continuity to streets across the city. Internationally, branding and marketing experts with Monocle magazine and Wink Creative, have applauded the work of the pair and think that it could have a strong impact on the city’s future.

Though New West might not need its own font per say, it will certainly benefit from similar small-scale resident driven initiatives that convey a message about our city, what we think about it and us as a group of people. With the River Market supporting local initiatives through their ONE program, it is possible for just about anyone to get a tiny idea off the ground. Whether it be greening a small patch of a neighborhood, creating a small public art project, or supporting local businesses, the more unique ideas we put together that transform the city, the stronger the sense of what this city of ours is and what it means to live here will be.

Neal Michael

Neal Michael is a really valued member of the Tenth to the Fraser community. Interested in joining our pool of writers? Please see these submission guidelines.

4 comments

  1. I think this is a great path to go down. Watching the River Market development, it's apparent that you aren't alone in your thinking. They've produced a number of non-market branded New West logos and concepts (including the Tin-Ghost at Halloween).

    It would be great to take this every further with public access to Logos, Maps, Texts, Stickers, etc. As a designer/developer it would be a project I'd love to run with, but don't have the time to go it alone (unfunded at least). We could start small or with things already created and expand to a huge library of branding/marketing materials for anyone in New West to use.

    I'll talk to Mark this week and see if there is already have a starting point, moving past this, getting official support from the City would be great.

    Who's in?

    If you'd like to get in touch, email me at start@ofdesks.com

  2. New West has gotten a bunch of positive press lately.

    The Georgia Straight had an article a month ago on the revitalization of the city (http://www.straight.com/article-669676/vancouver/royal-city-rebounding), and The Tyee hand an article (http://thetyee.ca/Life/2012/05/05/New-West-Brooklyn/) just the other week on New West becoming the Brooklyn of Vancouver, with the reference being that the avant-garde moved from New York to Brooklyn when the former got too expensive. The result was a very vibrant and experimental Brooklyn.

    For fonts, and other artistic things – that is definitely not my strength. But an arts festival, or anything that adds to the New West would be a bonus for the city.

  3. Great Article Neal!

    Brick & Mortar Living is proud to be a part of this thriving community. We've been open less than 2 weeks yet we've had the most wonderful welcome, and the support from the locals has been encouraging.

    To be honest we looked pretty much everywhere else in Vancouver when we were searching for the perfect location. New West wasn't really a consideration because we too had the idea that New West was more of a bridal shopping destination and we were also concerned about the rough patches. However, with that being said, when the retail space @ 42 Begbie Street (below Arundel Mansion Hotel) came available we just had to take it. With 17 foot ceiling and crisp white walls it was the perfect space for us to create a beautiful shop. However, we did think it was going to be a bit of a risk because it was off the beaten path (Columbia Street) and we were concerned about getting people to walk up the small hill to the shop. As it turns out, people are more than happy to walk up the hill, in fact we've had a steady flow of customers offering the most wonderful compliments and we're constantly being told "New West really needed a shop like this" – phew! what a relief. We are so very happy to be here and we love it when locals come in and chat with us during the day.

    If you're interested in learning more about our shop, please visit our Facebook page for more details. https://www.facebook.com/brickandmortarliving

    Jenn

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