When the project kicked off, Scott Freres, President of the Lakota Group, said “Our first step will be to step back and listen—to the many organizations and people that carry this region close to their heart,” and this has been accomplished by conducting focus groups, stakeholder interviews, and releasing surveys to understand how people feel about the Calumet region. And the outreach isn’t finished yet – the community can now engage in the branding process by participating in the Mood Board Survey – a way to provide feedback on the visual direction that the brand can take.
In February, the project Steering Committee, made up of 13 members from both Illinois and Indiana, helped compile an extensive list of stakeholder groups, resulting in 9 focus groups with over 60 people in attendance that discussed what the Calumet means to them. For those that could not attend in person, follow up interviews were held, and an online survey was distributed, where anyone could share their opinions on the region. The insight gathered from this outreach helped The Lakota Group start to understand key messaging and visuals that “address feelings of personal and collective belonging, memory, history, and identity,” and also “honor the past while looking forward and positioning the region into the future,” a goal that Scott Freres and the Lakota team set out to accomplish at the beginning of the project.
“Every group we talked with emphasized how the people of the region really define the place. They are hard-working change makers. They have both a vision for the future of the Calumet and the passion for place to truly affect change,” says Rachael Smith, Community Branding Manager of the Lakota Group, while describing her experience during the focus groups.
“Throughout our conversations with residents and stakeholders, the idea of atypical beauty came up again and again. The Calumet is defined by the landscapes that have been affected by industry, which gives them a character that is both beautiful and truly unique to this place. That is why this initiative is so important—so that residents and visitors alike can discover, rediscover, and appreciate this hidden gem,” says Marisa Schulz, Vice President of The Lakota Group, while describing some themes that resulted from the outreach.
Now the community can share their thoughts on the branding process with the Mood Board Survey. Like a Pinterest board, a mood board is an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc. that help us understand a visual idea - and in this project, the mood boards showcase three different visual directions to explore for the Calumet Heritage Area logo and brand. The three mood boards were created based on the previous stakeholder engagement, and capture elements of the Calumet’s unique charm. After compiling feedback on the mood boards, The Lakota Group will begin work on three different concepts for the Calumet Heritage Area logo and brand, and work with Matthew Kaplan Photography to start telling the story of the region through photographs.
Once the Calumet Heritage Area identity and brand is created, partners will work closely with organizations, municipalities, and other stakeholders on brand implementation. The Lakota Group will create a brand implementation toolkit, and Calumet Collaborative, Calumet Heritage Partnership, and others will make sure partners understand how to use the toolkit and implement the brand into their existing wayfinding systems and other print and digital collateral.
To learn more about the Calumet Heritage Area, visit calumetheritagearea.org. For any questions on the branding process, please reach out to Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.