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Green Line Brick Facade

Green Line Performing Arts Center

A Lively Identity for a Vital Neighborhood Theater

Building community

Washington Park has a rich history of Black creative excellence. The south-side Chicago neighborhood has inspired great 20th-century works of art like Raisin in the Sun and Native Son. In the late 2000s, University of Chicago and Theaster Gates formed a vision to revitalize the area with new shared spaces to gather and support artistic expression.

University of Chicago‚Äôs Arts + Public Life reached out to us to collaborate on Green Line Performing Arts Center, a black box theater incubator and performance space. With construction, lead by Morris Architects Planners, well underway, we worked to develop a visual identity that was inspired by the striking architecture. The center opened in 2018 and is now a beacon of the Washington Park Arts Block.

Client

University of Chicago: Arts + Public Life

Industry

Art + Design

Services

Green Line Performing Arts Center Exterior with logo signage
Green Line Exterior Signage at the corner of the building

VISUAL IDENTITY

We started, as we often do, with type. For Green Line, we focused on conveying energy and movement while remaining friendly and inviting. After establishing our core letterforms, we developed three distinct logos that give the theater loads of options. The Primary Wordmark is stacked for a solid presence, with extended lines giving a subtle nod to traditional theater marquees. The Lettermark is reduced to a single G and used for high awareness moments like building signage, while the modular Framing Wordmark establishes a clear structure for easy layout construction.

Green Line Word Mark
Green Line Primary Mark
Green Line Logo Framing Mark

Custom Type Design

From our logos we developed a full custom typeface: GL Grotesk. It echoes the horizontal motion of the namesake train through stacked, repeating lines. Setting the voice and tone for the whole system, it's highly readable and features informal, quirky details; welcoming the community with open arms.

The word theatre in cut metal affixed to a wall
The word studio in cut metal affixed to a wall
Sample of Green Line custom font
Green Line Brick Facade with word mark in lower right corner
Character set of custom font for Green Line

Style Guide

Next on board was the brand guide, complete with best practices for designing digital and print materials. The straightforward, easy-to-use toolkit helps theater staff and contributors keep both internal and external communications on track with clear directions that contain options and flexibility.

Pages from the Green Line style guide describing the design grid
Pages from the Green Line style guide describing the different logos

Color Palette

The name says it all: green was the inevitable backbone of our palette. To offset the vibrancy and create some balance, we brought in light and dark neutrals that reflect the dark brick facade and restored interior textures. We also looked to illuminated signage and the surrounding park district flora for additional pops of bright and natural green tones.

Five circles showing the different colors used in the green line brand palette

Architectural Grid

Light and shadow play leading roles both in and outside the theater and inform our layout grids and graphic devices. Glass blocks enable light to enter the theater during the day and exit at night, enticing folks on either side of the walls. The extruding bricks on the outer facade create dynamic shadow patterns throughout the day. We used both of these visual effects to create a diverse family of motion-friendly patterns.

Different arrangements of the design grid
Different arrangements of the design grid
Green Line Brick Facade and shadows
Posters using the Green Line logos and architectural grids in different arrangements
Posters using the Green Line logos and architectural grids in different arrangements

Signage

The identity came to full, illuminated life as signage at the corner of the theatre's entrance and street-facing brick screen exterior. Developed in collaboration with long-time partner Rightway Signs, the Lettermark runs the full length of the building, pointing to the adjacent Green Line L tracks, while the Wordmark neatly stacks perpendicularly. Both forms work together, guiding the way, connecting community and creativity.

Evening view of Exterior Green Line wordmark signage
Evening view of Exterior Green Line primary mark signage
Evening view of Exterior Green Line primary mark signage
Evening view of Exterior Green Line primary mark signage
Green Line Brick Closeup
Green Line Brick Facade
Evening shot of word mark illuminated on the corner of Green Line Performring Arts Center
Word mark illuminated with speeding train rolling by in the background
Evening view of Green Line Performing Arts Center and signage
Green Line dark brick facade and metal logo
Green Line dark brick facade and custom metal street address numbers