Charette: Identity



“We were given the task of creating a marketing campaign to re-brand Aurora. Questions that came to mind: Re-brand it to who? The people who are already using it daily? Potential developers? And, re-brand it how? By acknowledging and emphasizing what’s already there, or already perceived to be there- or by projecting onto it an idealized vision of the future? To try to determine how people who frequent the Avenue already identify with it, Ian and Angela interviewed twenty people they encountered in shops and on the sidewalk. To learn what people who don’t frequently engage with the area think of it, Pamanee interviewed people on campus.

When asking “what Aurora means to you,” users and non-users alike seemed to agree that the stretch of highway is “dirty,” “seedy,” a decaying remnant of the past, and generally a place where “crazy shit happens.” On the brighter side, Aurora is also clearly a place that people can rely on for money. People who work there seem to accept it for what it is- none of them indicated much of a sense of woe about going there every day. It is what it is. “Same old same old,” said a woman who’d sold exotic fish for the last 19 years.

Our charette seemed to somehow adopt this same laissez-faire attitude. Pamanee, Ian, Angela and guests had a lengthy conversation about what Aurora was already like- what was good, what was bad, what people think about it. We agreed that it was what it was, and some interesting phrases got thrown around, including “pseudo-pioneering” and “the hairy armpit of Seattle.” But nobody was too amped up about pinning down its identity into anything very succinct. Finally we split into teams, which by then included obliging members of our audience, all of whom had the same glazed-over expressions as people you might see waiting for a bus on Aurora and 99th. One team re-branded Aurora with a vision of what it might become. This vision took the form of a three-step process by which Aurora as a district would gain breathing room by taking program off Aurora and widening the sidewalks with the reclaimed space. Then, refreshed motels would be livened up as local tourist housing, Finally, regular street parties would punctuate the monotony of traffic along Aurora by bringing visitors in to see the district as an area of experimental restaurants, low-cost specialty commercial spaces, and entertainment. The other team was interested in community and identity-focused public art. The second team developed a variety of art-interventions on both the personal and the automotive scales. These interventions would invite the viewers to engage the art at all speeds, and invite them to slow down from whatever speed they might be at to more closely inspect the neighborhood. Both teams ended up quietly deciding to throw a huge party, and a few of the charetters even broke out some chalk pastels. Our deliverables ended up being a set of multi-step recommendations, for how the branding efforts might be accomplished, starting with the small scale and working to the large. Our efforts were illustrated on trace paper and pinned up as a series of step-by-step visual instructions.

General thoughts in retrospect: everybody seemed tired, from the guests to the audience to the team members. But, everything flowed without too much awkwardness. We didn’t come to a very concise conclusion, and though we came up with two different marketing campaigns, it would have been nice to have more time to meld them into one single strategy. “


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