Students rebrand, colorize South Loop

By Lisa Schulz

As soon as Alderman Robert Fioretti (2nd Ward) gives the green light, color-coded banners designed by Columbia students will hang from South Loop street poles to distinctively illuminate a path along

seven neighborhoods.

Rebranding downtown neighborhoods began with a request from the Greater South Loop Association as part of the city’s ward redistricting process. Former students began the project in fall 2011 in instructor Laurence Minsky’s service-learning-based “Ad Agency” course in the Marketing Communication Department.

The neighborhood banners correlate with the hue of their el train lines and feature a historic building for each of the areas, which include Central Station, Motor Row, Printer’s Row, Prairie District, Record Row, Museum Campus and Film Row.

“[The banner] gives you a defined sense of where you are, where you’re hanging out, where you’re shopping and where you’re dining out,” said Emily Bertino, the project’s account manager and senior fashion studies major/marketing communication minor. “I really think this will give the South Loop a stronger sense of community in the eyes of Chicago residents.”

In addition to Bertino, five other seniors taking the spring 2012 course will bring the project to its final stages: art directors Angela Faler, art & design major, and Kate Karczewski, photography major; copywriters Hannah Oliff and Helen Wilson, both marketing communication majors; and account planner Natalie Richards, marketing communication major.

Jeanette Johnson, vice president of the Greater South Loop Association, said the organization hopes to finish the project by the end of April. Historic buildings for the Central Station and Motor Row banners are currently undecided. A final motto for the Loop has yet to be chosen from three options: “The true heart of Chicago,” “A piece of history on every block” and “The neighborhood of neighborhoods.”

Opinion surveys on the designs are planned for distribution to community residents, Johnson said. The students attended the GSLA’s March 24 community meeting, during which the organization collected feedback from residents and Fioretti.

Minsky said establishing neighborhood residence allows a chance for opinions to be recognized and that rebranding the Loop will also create stronger organization among residents and their four aldermen when redistricting is finished in two years.

“When [elections] happen, you need a stronger identity than you have right now,” Minsky said. “You want your voice heard. You want to be seen as an entity in City Council. If there’s not one [alderman] overseeing your area, your voice is muted.”

Even with confidence in clients, not all past class projects have been successful. As in the corporate world, clients can change their requirements, resulting in unfinished campaigns, he said.

“If [the project] doesn’t look like it will get produced and [clients’] objectives don’t seem to align, projects do get ended,” Minsky said. “Students do benefit from getting stuff in their portfolios.”

Johnson said she has seen a great deal of professionalism and enthusiasm from students. Even though the class meets once per week, much less often than a professional agency would, there were no challenges when working with the students, she said.

“Surely, the process could seem a little bit slower,” Johnson said. “But in order for any good concept to come together, it needs to be developed over time so it starts to resonate with people.”