Design Forecast Atlanta: Every City Has a Brand

Editor’s note: This post is part of Gensler’s Design Forecast Local, a series of hyper local conversations with our clients about the topics that matter most in our cities.

Every city has a brand — it originates from the people who make its neighborhoods rich with personality, values, and promises. Each of us is a brand ambassador for our city, and collectively we create shared experiences that define who we are, and who we want to be.

On the heels of Atlanta Design Festival (June 1-9, 2019), it is evident that our city is ever-evolving for the betterment of our livelihoods. Gensler and Modern Atlanta hosted our community in a pop-up exhibit space at Ponce City Market facing the BeltLine to facilitate a dialogue about our city’s present and future. The exhibit “Atlanta Today: Essentially Human” prompted weeklong discussion about a design forecast for our city. The passion of our spokespeople is inspiring as we contemplate what’s shaping the future of Atlanta.

A group of people taking pictures.

So what makes us proud to be Atlantan? The speakers that shared our stage during the festival left us with a few takeaways that start to give us a sense of what we stand for as a city (our brand), and the collective voices that define the Atlanta experience (our ambassadors):

  • Diversity and inclusion are vital. We view this as the most enriching ingredient whether we are talking about social inclusion or our various neighborhoods with their own distinct personalities Diversity is powerful — just look at what the arts bring to our most visited corridor, what developments like Ponce City Market itself do to bring a new mix, or what sports bring to greater Atlanta.

  • Creativity is the spark. We believe that Atlanta is a center for creativity that sparks new ways of living and working. The Creatives Project promotes artists-in-residency throughout the city, Fitzco chose to reside on the Westside for its creative community, and Pinewood Studios is dreaming up a destination center for the film industry.

  • Wellness will be the currency. Health and well-being are critical to our longevity and happiness. This is one reason why Kyle Stapleton co-founded Culture Lab X in Atlanta to increase our dialogue about cultural health at work. There’s also climate health, community health and other wellness measures we need to consider, like mass transit. Liz York, Chief Sustainability Officer at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggested that we look at cities abroad to rethink public transportation in Atlanta.

  • Innovation drives a new mix. Cities today demand new approaches to solving problems, engaging partners, and collaborating for a better future. For example, Nathan Hedges with the Allen Morris Company recognizes that qualitative factors drive intangible value that we need to capture in iterative pro formas. Jerald Mitchell, as VP of Development for the Atlanta BeltLine, sees innovation as an economic driver; and Tim Keane, the commissioner of Atlanta’s City Planning office is consistently encouraging more advocacy from our communities.

These are just some of the things we heard throughout the week, but the main takeaway is clear: a city’s brand never stands still — it evolves and transforms with the people who believe in realizing its full potential. It also takes on different characters by neighborhood and means something different to each resident and organization.

This showing at last week’s festival makes me proud to be Atlantan and excited to be an ambassador for our brand. For more tips and tricks on how to be an advocate for our city brand, visit ATL Brand Box. This cohesive, free-to-use online resource does an exceptional job presenting the city’s history, values, and opportunities.

Amy Bixler
Amy is a studio director and global leader in Gensler’s Brand Design practice. Her work, which ranges from retail to hospitality, workplace to community, blends strategy, graphic design, and digital communication with interior design and architecture to create unforgettable brand experiences. Amy is based in Atlanta. Contact her at .