Innovate ABQ

Innovate ABQ - student project

Innovate ABQ

Innovate ABQ is a new economic development district in Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. The Innovate ABQ campus will house start-ups and entrepreneurs in an effort to create new companies, grow existing and attract more business to the city.

I love Albuquerque and its potential for growth. I also love economic development. Lastly, given the blank brand canvas I have to work with, Innovate ABQ seems like a logical option for me.

Innovate ABQ Research

  • It's about creating a highly connected community that allows ideas to grow.

Innovate ABQ was founded in 2013 when the City of Albuquerque (headed by Mayor Berry) and the University of New Mexico formed a partnership find land and build an innovation district where people can 'live, work, and play.' In July of 2014, Innovate ABQ purchased the abondoned Albuquerque First Baptist Church campus. The building/campus is massive and is right in the middle of downtown Albuquerque. The plans for renovation are underway as I type!

The type of businesses living in this district will be heavily technology driven start-ups, but will hardly be limited to just the booming tech industry. The district will include anything and everything, from mom-n-pop bakeries and coffee shops to tech giants like Microsoft (who has already agreed to join). Local community college, CNM, and the University of New Mexico plan to create an education section and research centers.

When it's done it should be quite impressive. It certainly fills a void in ABQ.

Current Identity: Above is the only consistent graphic I could find for this young organization

Logo Development

After a series sketches, word assocations and search for inspiration I came to a few ideas for a new identity. I played with some shapes (triangles/delta - change) and cliche 'innovative' images (light bulb, gears). It wasn't really working. I determined maybe all I needed was the right use of typography.

I wanted the logo to be just the words Innovate ABQ with a supporting element I could use as a mark and possibly throughout to help build the identity. The name 'Innovate ABQ' and it's vision for the future, and technology focus reminded me of some old sci-fi posters from the 1950's. Typically they would include yellows and reds and tall lettering.


Trial & Error

Using this idea to find a tall bold typeface, I chose the font 'Franchise' and developed these logo ideas below, keeping in mind how I could use the logo to later help develop a liquid identity.

Idea 1 (left): This idea was very basic and I thought that the middle line would open up to reveal text between the words 'Innovate' and 'ABQ' to create sentences that began with Innovate and ended with ABQ. These sentences would communicate messages about the brand (ideas, change, innovation, technology, business building). Ultimately, this idea seemed too generic. Anyone with a two word name could do this same thing. Plus my wife said it looks like a gun, given the issues we have with guns in the 505, this was not a good idea.

Idea 2 (right): This idea had more potential. I thought a focus on the local level would be good. In New Mexico, we have a heavy Spanish speaking population. So I thought about how exciting this new development is and created this logo with 'spanish' exclaimation points with the 'I' doubling as punctuation. The thought was that later I could use the punctuation as a logomark and include the use of spanish exclaimaiton points in text heavy headlines and ads.

The Ah-Ha Moment

Thinking local is okay, but I needed something that connected more with what the organization will be doing. How it all connects. Innovate ABQ is about ideas and innovation.

What is innovation? The definition states that innovation is making changes to something established. So how could I innovate the word 'innovate'? That is when I saw the potential to stack the repeated N's. Shortening and altering the way the letters are read created a more unique and meaningful look.

I saw potential to connect the N's to use the negative space as a spark, as in the spark of an idea, or spark to create light like all-time great innovator Thomas Edison did with the light-bulb.


Lastly, I decided that the logo could climb upward to project a feeling of positivity and energy. 

The Kit-of-Parts

The kit-of-parts includes use of the 'stacked-letter' alphabet and the 'spark-mark'. These pieces, especially the letters, should help make the visuals instantly recognizable. I was a little nervous that there wouldn't be enough words with pairs of letters, but after looking for options, I quickly discovered there are plenty of directions to keep the identity fresh. For now advertising would be text heavy, but when a refresh is needed images could be incorporated to push the identity a little further. Eventually, maybe the spark mark could play a larger role.

Below are a few ideas of how the identity could be used. Here are some shots around the Innovate ABQ Campus and other goodies.

note: I decided that if a word includes two sets of repeated letters, only one set would be stacked, otherwise the words seem to become too unrecognizable, but of course thoughts/suggestions are welcome.


Revisiting the concept: 

I enjoyed this project quite a bit and ended up using it in my portfolio since first working on the assignment. After a few years of experience and growth, there are some design choices that I wasn't super happy with so I decided to make some updates and further explorations. I hope the additional work is appreciated... enjoy. 



The main change to the project comes in font selection. Upon further review, I didn't love the typeface I originally chose and decided to go with 2 fonts by Connary Fagen (Integral and Vanguard). The fonts are better crafted and work well with the stacked lettering.

The original logo design felt too similar to the rest of the typography and headlines. I also felt that the organization might need the flexibility to expand. I went with a modular box lockup to contain the name, city and supporting graphic element. This is the result.



In an effort to bring the brand to life a bit more, I wanted to use the typographic system in ways that pushed the concept further. Innovate is a space for ideas to develop from concept to reality. Graphic installations exist both on and off the Innovate campus to bring the concept to life. Below are examples of thought made tangible.




This has been a great exercise and after all the work I didn't want to leave out this latest update from the skillshare class. If anyone is thinking about taking this course I would highly recommend it. Enjoy and I would love to hear your thoughts on the updates. Thanks!