How to Revitalize Downtown Guelph.

Guelph is one of those model cities in Canada that is consistently rated one of the best places to live in the country. It boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates and crime rates of any major urban center. The population is highly educated, the environment is clean and it’s urban center is thriving. Save for an unsightly 8 acres in the heart of the downtown core.

 After years of planning, we were approached to brand the area as the next great destination in Guelph. The plans were to deliver a whole new urban village in the heart of downtown. It would feature restored heritage buildings housing retail shops, restaurants and art installations. A new downtown square would be at it’s centre. Hundreds of new homes including condos and townhouses would be added. A 50’ wide landscaped ‘Riverwalk’ would be added next to the Speed River. These were big plans for a modest sized city (ranked 25th in Canada by population). Furthermore, it was a hotly contested plan. Guelph’s highly educated, liberal-minded and not to mention, vocal population had major concerns over the preservation of the heritage aspects of the area.

Crafting a brand that genuinely respected and celebrated the history of the area was a tricky ask. Further, communicating an exciting future that won’t be fully realized for years to come can feel like an empty promise.

The area had had a storied past. It was situated at the very place where John Galt, a Scottish novelist founded the City of Guelph with the felling of a tree back in 1827. The area became home to Guelph’s first major industrial development – a mill on the bank of the Speed River. It saw many transformations, including the addition of a distillery, brewery and a metalworking shop. In the early 1900’s and for years to come, the area became home to Canada’s most prolific manufacturers of hardware, lawn mowers and all types of metal products.

Hence the brand name The Metalworks was born. Everything about the identity was an homage to the past. Even the logo itself was created by hand with custom, hand-crafted typography. Much like it would have been created at the turn of the century. Every extension of the brand needed to respect the location’s storied past.

Signage created with bricks reclaimed from the heritage building.

Transit Shelter Ads with a historic twist. Each placement was a historic landmark.

Local politicians, city councillors and Guelph natives embraced the new (old) brand. The authenticity and respect for the past was felt and The Metalworks is well on it’s way to realizing it’s vision.