Fellow Inc. Develops a Brand to Help Convince People to Live in a Former Jail


By Egotist / /

Branding Agency, Fellow Inc., creates Leijona (Finnish for “lion”), a new apartment living brand for what once was the St. Louis County Jail in Duluth, Minn. Together with New History, an adaptive reuse development company, the boutique shop writes a new story for a storied space.

Usually a jail is one of the last places people want to be. With Leijona, Fellow Inc. set out to make it one of the first choices for modern city dwellers in Duluth, Minn., drawing inspiration from the building’s rich history and its stunning architectural details.

“This is as rare as branding challenges get, and we were thrilled to take it on,” said Michael Seitz, Fellow Inc. Creative Director. “In order to convince people to voluntarily live in a jail and embrace this unique living space, we knew we needed a compelling counterpoint to its harsh history in the form of an inviting brand story.”

Built in 1924, the jail was part of the Duluth Civic Center, the work of architect Daniel Burnham, renowned for New York City’s iconic Flatiron Building among many other projects. He founded the “City Beautiful” movement, which devotes equal focus to elegance, dignity and utility. Today the building sits on the National Register of Historic Places and holds 33 newly redeveloped apartments, which will welcome new residents in January 2023.

To unlock a new narrative for the building, Fellow Inc. surveyed its Neoclassical details. “Right away we took note of the dignified lions etched into the corbels,” said Fellow Inc. creative co-founder Eric Luoma. “They signal the brave spirit of Duluth, an industrial city formed in part by Finnish immigrants on the icy shores of Lake Superior, and inform its new namesake.”

Visually, the Leijona brand pulls inspiration from the pristine lines of the building’s Neoclassical architecture. “As if formed by bricks, each serif-styled syllable within the Leijona primary logomark sits within a unique, modular block, allowing for a variety of applications and formations,” said Karl Wolf, creative co-founder of Fellow Inc. “A monoweight illustration of the lion is an iconographic shorthand for the brand. And the broader brand identity system strikes a considered balance between legacy and modernity, featuring a color palette based on the warm neutrals in the original lobby’s terrazzo floors.”

“This project was ambitious and challenging from the start,” said Meghan Elliott, founding principal of New History and part of the ownership team. “In Fellow Inc., I found a branding partner who shared an equally daring drive to reimagine a story for a building with unique and complex character. Today, in Duluth and beyond, Leijona proves it’s possible to bring new life to old spaces.”

Based in Minneapolis, Fellow Inc. was founded in 2010 by chief creative officers Eric Luoma and Karl Wolf. As an independent branding and advertising shop, they build and advance brands that dare to be distinct. The likes of Target, Mayo Clinic and other brave brands are the company they are proud to keep. More at fellowinc.com.


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