Kate Reingold
graphic design
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Stone Gardens Rebrand

Stone Gardens is a bouldering, top-rope and lead climbing gym in Seattle. We developed a fresh look for the gym that balances their updated facilities, changing demographic, and their commitment to old-school climbing tradition.

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TIMEFRAME

11 weeks

COLLABORATORS

Erin Millman

MY ROLE

  • Research
  • Logo Design 
  • Layout
  • Illustration & Lettering
  • Copywriting 

 

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TELL ME MORE

Stone Gardens is a bouldering, top-rope and lead climbing gym with two locations in the Seattle area. While their climbing facilities have been growing and improving for over 20 years, their branding hasn’t been updated to reflect the gym’s growth. Over 11 weeks, we developed a fresh look for the old-school climbing gym.

CHALLENGE

Our main challenge was in creating an elevated design system and rebrand while staying true to the client. We felt that Stone Gardens likely wouldn’t invest in a significant rebrand campaign, and that design wasn’t a priority for the gym. The design system had to be simple and fun enough that the gym would be excited about implementing it. 

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APPROACH 

We began our rebrand by conducting extensive research on Stone Gardens. This included climbing for a day at the gym’s Ballard location, talking to employees, email correspondence with management at the gym, and interviews with longtime members of Stone Gardens. We spent time walking around the neighborhood to gain a better sense of the gym in relation to the community. These observations and additional research gave us a strong sense of the audience for the gym and the gym’s values, as well as their competitors. 

Stone Gardens is known in the climbing scene as the place to find the most challenging technical routes.  When asked what kept them coming to the gym, everyone we spoke to said the same thing: “the community”. This illuminated to us the core of the Stone Gardens brand character: the humble, adventurous community.

Once we had the character defined, we developed a series of graphic territories based around the characteristics we identified. The gym’s previous branding, we agreed, fell a little too strongly into the “humble” category; so we created a visual concept to amplify the bold, “adventurous” aspect of the sport to better express to newcomers what the SG climbing experience was like.

 

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SOLUTION 

In creating the new brand mark, we worked through many sketch and modified type iterations to create a word mark that balanced technical structure with rough, hand-touched charm. From our primary stacked wordmark, Erin created a vertically-oriented “Big Wall” version, as well as isolating the climber mark for use in gym collateral and merchandise.

Visually, our brand system is built on a color palette inspired by the natural world, but amplified through saturation in the same way the gym walls create an artificial simulation of natural rock formations. 

The contrast between roughness and structure that the brand mark exhibits is further played up through angular color fields overlayed with hand-drawn patterns I created. Each pattern is inspired by different climbing-related references. 

Typographically, we use a mixture of bold, structural headlines with DIN Narrow Extra Bold and pithy, hand-drawn phrases and expression marks to convey the enthusiasm and humor you’d find when talking to other climbers in the gym.  I worked to refine Stone Garden’s website design in order to help the primary audience, new climbers, quickly find the most relevant information to get them into the gym and climbing. Erin worked to apply the brand elements to the previously untreated non-climbing walls of Stone Gardens Ballard gym, in order to make the gym experience more navigable to first-time visitors.