People & Purpose
Anchored by its striking flagship building (The Ion) off Main Street in Midtown, Houston’s new Ion District capitalizes on our city’s entrepreneurial ethos and legacy of ingenuity to introduce a sixteen-acre innovation corridor in the heart of the city. Our charge has been to create an identity system for a mixed-use district spanning ten years and twelve blocks of development, helping guide and inspire partners and visitors through the exciting, evolving, and often ambiguous landscape of “innovation.”
- Verbal Identity
- Visual Identity
- Website Design
- Print System
- Presentation Materials
- Brand Guidelines
- Campaign Development
- Kudos NYC
- Black Magic
- Acacia Originals
By creating a dynamic environment of green and gathering places ripe for serendipitous encounters and skill-building courses, first-time funding and Fortune 500 flex space, the District catalyzes the development of ideas, technologies, and businesses that push our world forward. And, in the process, offers Houstonians across all sectors and skill levels a thriving place to live, learn, work, play, and prosper.
Steve Jobs once remarked that creativity is just connecting things. The line-work of the identity system is built around concepts of connection and pathways — those critical moments of connection that link people or ideas or opportunities, and the District’s role in acting as the conduit and catalyst for those moments to take place.
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All are welcome here.
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One of our mottoes throughout this project has been to “make innovation mean something.” A flexible system of panels introduces a modular device that visually and verbally activates the brand line for the District: Every better way needs a place to begin.
The goal is to weave together actual examples across the District that showcase the wonderful variety of forms “innovation” can take—juxtaposing dissimilar industries, the large and the small, physical products and less tangible concepts—to help people understand what’s happening here… and invite them to view themselves as a future participant in building the world they want to see. Lines can be conceived for general placement around the District, or tailored to a specific context (e.g. a solar-powered food park via their Greentown Labs partner: A greener way to power your plate, or this food park).
Located at 4201 Main St. in the heart of the District, the eponymous Ion building is the transformative centerpiece of the innovation corridor. The beautifully revived building—once home to the iconic Sears showroom, itself a modern marvel in 1939—is today a sunlit structure of steel and glass designed to bring Houston’s entrepreneurial, corporate, and academic communities into collaborative spaces and programs. A place for turning imagination and ideas into tangible realities. A place that is, in short, the new HQ for innovation in Houston.
After designing the overarching identity for the District, we were tasked with refining and deepening the existing brand for the Ion building itself in order to create cohesion and a symbiotic relationship between these parent/child brands. We considered how to define and align various aspects of their respective toolkits (like type, color, graphics, and language) across the family while preserving the “spiritual integrity” of the original mark.
The simple, punchy holding shape establishes a robust functional unit that pairs cleanly with the District and other partner logos. The circle itself inspires a dynamic visual palette of round “molecular” elements that accompany the early plus/minus “ionization” graphics.
Moreover, the new circular mark symbolizes the literal and figurative “starting point” that the Ion building and its programs embody. “Start here” becomes the specific call-to-action for the Ion that plays off the broader tagline for the District, further reinforcing their part-to-whole relationship.
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As the digital culmination of these deeply entwined brands, the new umbrella website harnesses a district-wide vision and sets it up for future phases of growth—while welcoming audiences to engage with the forward-thinking people and programming already bringing the area to life. From streamlined event management to bespoke maps and floor plans, playful line-work to bold, simple language, the site aims to be a delightful starting point for anyone itching to be a part of Houston’s future.
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The team at Principle took an incredibly challenging brand and broke it down into an understandable vision and mission for our various target audiences. Innovation is a tough word to define, and even tougher when it’s the core piece of what the Ion and Ion District is. Their inspiration, creativity, and guidance gave us two beautiful brands that have come together to become one in some instances, but still uniquely different when needed. From complementary color palettes and typography to uniquely individual verbal and visual assets, we couldn’t have chosen a better agency to take our brand and vision to the next level. They’ve truly helped make the Ion and Ion District become not only a place where people want to be but are proud to be affiliated with. We are forever grateful to call you part of Team Ion!