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Case Study

Mikado's Blueprint: Building a Brand from Past Projects

Industry
Architecture
Company Size
1-10
Markets
United States

Context

Mikado is a boutique architecture studio located in Tucson, Arizona, founded by Stefan Kaiser, AIA. The studio specializes in single and multi-family housing projects. Stefan approached me with a specific challenge - all the built work in his portfolio was completed by other companies he used to be a part of. While this is a common issue in the architectural and design professions, Stefan was looking for guidance on how to market and brand his new company in a way that would allow for future growth and flexibility.

He had chosen the name Mikado, which combines his architectural style influenced by Japanese Modernist principles with his German heritage surname "Kaiser," meaning "Emperor." With the name sorted, our next focus was developing a compelling graphic identity. In addition to the graphic identity, the project scope included creating a website to showcase Stefan's design work and construction involvement, as well as other marketing materials like collaterals and slide deck templates. The key to success for Mikado was to provide creative direction and strategy for their new graphic identity and web presence.

Screenshot of the About Mikado webpage highlighting the use of color and imagery to create tone.

Approach & Strategy

Branding Design

With the name finalized, the first step was to create a graphic identity that aligned with the name and the intended tone of the messaging. Stefan's goal was to target a high-end, affluent residential market, primarily located in the American Southwest. The challenge was to strike a balance between a highly contemporary aesthetic that resonated with the existing portfolio and a classic, sophisticated look that would appeal to the target audience.

The resulting brand identity is a blend of classic and contemporary elements. The overall look and feel were achieved through a combination of dark forest greens and lighter khaki colors, while a subtle serif font was chosen for the logo. The core brand is complemented by intricate patterns and line work inspired by textures commonly found in upscale residential architecture, such as walls, classic wallpaper, and roofing tiles.

Example of patterns that reference real-world building materials.

While the logo font maintains a classic serif style, the paragraph and descriptive text throughout the brand adopt a contemporary typeface called Inter, which is often regarded as the "Helvetica of the 2020s."

All these choices were carefully selected and reviewed in collaboration with Stefan. The iterative process of making and reflecting on the choices of color and tone helped him gain a better understanding of the potential of this new brand.

Website

My approach to developing the website focused on achieving a balance between showcasing Mikado's services and highlighting Stefan Kaiser's expertise and portfolio. It was important for the website to be honest and forward-looking, transparent about Stefan's connection to his portfolio while emphasizing the unique value he brought to each project. To achieve this, the website is divided into two main sections: portfolio and services, although this division may not be immediately apparent to visitors.

The portfolio section of the website features a homepage that showcases striking images of several projects Stefan designed or contributed to. As visitors scroll, they can click on each project to access a dedicated page with additional photographs, drawings, computer renderings, and contextual information. We made sure to credit the original companies involved in each project and carefully selected imagery that aligned with Mikado's desired work.

The other half of the website focuses on Stefan and his relevant experience and expertise. This section is clean and straightforward, highlighting his background, biography, and previous employment. Directly linked across the website is the Services section, which outlines Mikado's role in the architectural world and communicates the necessary skill sets and abilities for bringing a building from design to construction.

Throughout the website, you'll notice the incorporation of brand elements such as line work patterns and textures mentioned earlier. These elements are strategically used to visually segment different sections and thoughts on each page.

In line with the balance between classical and modernist design, the website's user interface has a sleek and futuristic feel. Frosted blurs, depth perception, and lens-like distortion transition effects contribute to a sense of novelty and advancement, aligning with Mikado's mission of creating a sense of excitement and sophistication for clients when their buildings are ready for occupancy.

Additionally, the website includes a form for visitors to reach out to Stefan or Mikado with questions or work inquiries. While most communication is typically done via referral, this form captures interested parties' information for prompt follow-up. Overall, the website's structure encourages continuous internal linking, keeping users engaged and confident in their choice.

Screenshot of Mikado Homepage showing blur scrolling effect.

Takeaway

In summary, Mikado, a boutique architecture studio in Tucson, faced the challenge of having a portfolio filled with projects completed by other companies Stefan Kaiser used to be a part of. To address this, a strong graphic identity and web presence were developed to establish Mikado as a distinct brand. The branding approach combined classic and contemporary elements, appealing to the target high-end residential market. The website showcased Stefan's expertise and relevant portfolio, with a focus on transparency and highlighting the value he brought to each project. The result was a successful alignment of Mikado's brand identity, web presence, and marketing strategy, positioning the studio for future growth and flexibility.

Testimonial

Collaborating with George on brand-positioning for my architecture firm was profoundly helpful. He is adept at distilling our conversations into graphic packages and systematically guiding the brand-development process from start to finish. He exceeded my expectations with his enthusiastic and efficient efforts; a joy to work with.

Stefan Kaiser
Owner + Founder
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