F. Philip Barash is creative director at Sasaki, where he oversees the firm's place branding practice. An accomplished writer, curator, and brand-builder, Barash works with private and public clients on telling compelling stories about their environments.
This piece originally appeared in the New England Real Estate Journal.
Our very first conversations about Sasaki’s brand used a visual aid. It was a cartoon of an elephant surrounded by blindfolded people, each touching a different part of the animal. “Tree,” said the caption beneath the person touching the elephant’s leg. “Hose,” said the one near the trunk. “Rope,” said the one by the tail.
Such was the challenge of our brand, which had grown organically over the last six decades. Sasaki’s name is well-known, but it means different things to different people. It embodies the elegance of contemporary architecture, the rigor of planning new regions, the urgent recognition of the role that natural systems play in our lives. Still, it lacked a unified identity. This challenge was felt more acutely as the practice entered a new phase—a phase marked by a young and diverse staff, transformative projects all over the world, and, as always, big ideas. That’s the Sasaki we wanted to share with the world.
After a thorough search, we partnered with Bruce Mau Design (BMD), charging their team with capturing the essence of new Sasaki. In BMD, we recognized kindred spirits: perfectionists, design nerds, conceptual thinkers. We warned BMD that we would be a demanding client, bringing 270 pairs of critical design eyes to the project.
The yearlong process began with a series of strategic exercises to uncover Sasaki’s ambitions and desires—what we stand for. At the same time, discussions with industry peers, clients, and influencers revealed the spectrum of marketplace perception. What emerged in that process was a single thread that connected all markets and disciplines. In all-caps, double-underlined, we wrote the phrase “We are defining the future of place.” Beyond specific disciplines, building types, or markets, we believe that what we create today will shape our collective future.
These insights grew into a messaging framework, containing an expanded vocabulary and a sharp point of view in speaking about our work. A powerful visual metaphor flowed too: a bright and variegated kit, in which every part complements the other. Ultimately, the new brand is unmistakably Sasaki: full of energy and passion, diversity and design, a complex and multidimensional animal. But now, the blindfolds are off.
Read "Six Decades in the Making: The Story of Sasaki's New Brand" here.