TIMELINE + ROLES
10 WEEKS, SOLO PROJECT: BRAND IDENTITY, LAYOUT, ART DIRECTION, MOTION
Third Place Books enjoys a loyal customer base in Seattle and has created communities around each of its neighborhood stores. However, the company lacks identifiable visual branding to link their brand character with their product offerings, events, and stores. The main challenge for this project was to build a cohesive visual language that reflects the essence of their brand character: curiosity and community.
This rebrand integrates beloved elements of the small bookstore experience into a cohesive visual brand that better conveys the core values of the company.
Most Third Place customers are dedicated bibliophiles with a preference for independent stores and an interest in community connection. They enjoy the small bookstore experience and value the tactile feel of books over other comparable mediums. They also view books as a tool to foster curiosity, self-improvement, and connection.
Third Place Books is an independent bookseller with three neighborhood locations in the Seattle area: Lake Forest Park (opened 1998), Ravenna (opened 2002), and Seward Park (opened 2016). These stores were founded by the visionary Seattle developer Ron Sher who described the brand concept as “the deliberate and intentional creation of a community around books and the ideas inside them.” The name—Third Place Books—comes from the sociologist Ray Oldenberg, who argued that each person needs three places: a home (first), a workplace or school (second), and place for community to interact (third) like a pub, town square, or gathering place. From the layout of its stores to its robust calendar of free events, Third Place books seeks to be a shared space for community engagement.
The branding process began with an exercise using images to help identify TPB’s brand characteristics. We discovered that the three primary brand characteristics are: community-oriented, thoughtful, and real.
The concept—real curiosity, actual community—was derived from a visual exploration of the brand character traits, and is based on a return to small bookstore experience of the past. This translates into a look that is hand-touched, timeless, and comforting. It exudes tranquility while promoting curiosity. Most importantly, it celebrates books and the people who love them.
Taking guidance from the concept board, I selected colors that would reflect the brand—warm and inviting while simultaneously reflecting the natural environment of the northwest. I chose a mixture of classic and contemporary typography to meet the wide variety of needs for store with both a physical and online presence. I also developed a simple, highly versatile pattern system to be used subtly across nearly all branded collateral.
As usual, the logo development process relied heavily on ideation and iteration. My first attempts were too clean, modern, and corporate to truly reflect the neighborhood essence of Third Place Books. After realizing that hand touched textures would better suit the brand, I reworked my designs to reflect the tactile connection between books and readers.
The collateral pieces were chosen to harmonize with the brand concept and to connect the customer’s daily life to the bookshop third place community: coffee mugs, journals, shirts, and tote bags. Additionally, a set of posters, bookmarks, and punch cards were designed to help standardize the Third Place Books identity across the three stores while retaining a down to earth feel.
I created a set of animated Instagram posts to engage with parents and children—a primary audience for the store. These animations were done in a “stop-motion” style that looks informal, handmade, and charming—appropriate for a local neighborhood book store. As with other customer touch points, the goal was to express the curiosity and inclusivity of the brand.
POP UP STORE
In order to bring TPB’s brand—“real curiosity, actual community”—out into the broader Seattle community, a mobile bookstore was created. The mobile shop is a chance to engage with new customers that might not walk into a typical bookshop by creating spontaneous book communities—a third place—in the comfort of a park or public space. Specifically, the shop would be based around a coffee truck with bookshelves and reading chairs arranged on the grass.
This rebrand succeeds by creating a cohesive, recognizable, and scalable visual language based on the charming informality of the small bookstore experience. The “real curiosity, actual community” concept translates into a brand experience that is authentic and attractive to both current and future customers.