Branding Intangibles: Co-Working Spaces Case Study

June 29, 2017 | Branding

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As many of you know, Visible Logic is located in Portland, Maine. Here in the city, we have three co-working spaces: PelotonLabs, Think Tank and Cloudport.

Let me start by saying that I’m very happy that Portland now supports three co-working spaces. Co-working spaces foster creativity and collaboration among workers who might otherwise be very isolated.

Note: I’m not a member any of these places, and never have been, because our multi-person firm is doing well in our small office space. I’m approaching this to shed light on how each brand is perceived as an outsider. In fact, if a prospective customer were to meet you at one of these three co-working spaces, these are the types of first impressions that might be relevant; and may carry over into your own brand’s perception.

Looking at these three brands can teach you about what goes into building a brand, far beyond your logo.

Location as differentiator

To begin, these three spaces are evenly distributed across Portland’s main peninsula. PelotonLabs is in the West End, Think Tank most centrally located in the Arts District and Cloudport at the bottom of Munjoy Hill in the India Street neighborhood. Location alone is a differentiator, as it is for many brick and mortar businesses. Depending on where you live (and maybe where your appointments are) the location might be a deciding factor about which you choose.

Name and logo

The three firms have very different brand identities.

I’ve always loved Peloton’s name and logo. I’m a biker so I understand the reference to the Peloton, which is the group that forms in large bike races. And I admire that their modern logo is simple enough to suggest that energy, without being literal.

However, if you’re not familiar with the business, it may be unclear what it is. Peloton is sort of a geeky bike term and then a lab suggests something other than a co-working space. Or, you might think it’s specifically for people doing scientific R&D (something more like TechPlace’s shared Bio Works lab in Brunswick).

I like Think Tank’s name. It suggests the elevated thinking that can happen when a group works together. However, the logo itself is unrefined and unmemorable.

What makes it unrefined? The fact that Think and Tank are similar sizes, but not quite the same. The way it feels crowded into the box. The execution of the “thought bubbles”—which are a great symbol—but the thin lines are not bold enough to make a quick read. Honestly, if you asked me before I wrote this blog what that design was, I hadn’t figured it out.

Cloudport is the newest coworking space in Portland. I love Cloudport, but their logo sucks!

This is like bad clip art from at least a decade ago suggesting cloud computing. It’s a bad image and the outlining of the connector-thingy looks very rudimentary. The typography echoes the techy-yet-outdated feel. The name and logo suggests they are catering to developers, engineers and other techies, which may or may not be accurate.

The physical space

For brick and mortar businesses like restaurants, boutiques, hair salons and co-working spaces, the design of the interior, the color of the walls, the style and layout of the furniture and more, all build an atmosphere for the physical space that are an important part of the brand image.

Peloton Labs has a modern but comfortable feel, with open floor plans, modern furniture, a few hits of color and an interesting texture on their outside facade.

Think Tank is light and airy with the large windows and light colored furnishings.

Cloudport’s prominent, granite kitchen with visible beer taps area makes you feel instantly at home (and at least for me, a much nicer home than my own).

One pet peeve I have with Think Tank is that the exterior door is always locked and there is no vestibule. It seems like whenever I have a meeting there is seems to be raining, and I’m realizing that I need to fish out my cell phone and then call my contact’s phone. This is Maine, don’t make us wait outside in the weather! By contrast, I feel immediately welcome when I walk into Cloudport. The door is kept unlocked, there is a receptionist on staff and there are many places to sit if my contact is not quite ready to meet.

Your office is an extension of your brand

As a small business owner or solopreneur, you probably aren’t in a position to build out your dream office space. But think about how your physical space, whether your own office or a co-working space, make a critical first impression for customers and prospects.

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