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City of Memphis

Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan

Through our relationship with Opticos Design, Covive was introduced to the City of Memphis, Tennessee planning department, as they were commencing to combine years of stakeholder outreach and work with consultants into a comprehensive plan document to guide the City into its third century. More than just providing a design template, Covive helped shape the organization, high-level messaging, hierarchy, and vibrant, aspirational brand look for the project. A 225-page design template was handed off to the City for internal production of the document, which would total over 400 pages when completed.

Information Design, Brand Identity, Messaging Strategy
Cover of the Memphis 3.0 Comprehensive Plan Document

Brand Refinement

The City had been using a project logo for several years for its community outreach efforts, public meetings, and charrettes. During preliminary design stages for the plan document, as Covive explored typography and color options, we developed an alternate project brand and color palette which would be a little less generic, blend with the look of the planning document, and provide a foundation for future brand extensions for initiatives by the planning department. The three-line "M" arrow was retained, refined and given dimension through shading. Type and color were simplified and made bolder to present a more modern vision of the City on the national stage.

Document Planning and Storyboard

To begin designing the document template, Covive was given a three-page document outline draft in MS Word format. Our experience has shown us that successful communications design that informs and inspires requires more than just setting up columns, picking fonts, and determining header styles; this document would require very specific planning to accommodate all the different forms of maps, charts, lists, statistics, photos, renderings, tables, captions, and callouts to be included as part of a rich, cohesive narrative. Covive developed a visual document outline, detailed thumbnail-sketch storyboard, and list of items to be color coded, categorized, or represented with icons or illustrations. The storyboard took into account visual pacing to signal clear chapter breaks, special content features, and grouping of like items.

Typography and Layout Studies

Existing planning department materials used generic fonts such as Arial, Cambria, and Calibri. In reviewing comparable visionary planning documents by other major cities, Covive saw an opportunity to create a much bolder and distinct look for the document, enlisting the stunning new font families Produkt and Graphik, both of which have a range of impactful weights and widths. In addition, rather than choosing a standard 8.5" x 11" portrait or landscape page size, Covive recommended a 10.5" square format which would accommodate the citywide overview maps (of which there would be many) as well as unique district maps, with room above and below for headers, captions, legends, and white space. Covive developed a flexible document grid and typography styles specific to the hierarchy and list styles identified in the storyboard.

Comprehensive Plan Document

With feedback and buy-in from the City on all the core ingredients, Covive began building out full-size designs for all page types. Through searches of Instagram and Flickr, Covive sourced authentic placeholder photography for a broad range of topics and points of view. Covive later recommended that the City reach out directly to those photographers to work out usage rights and credits. Outstanding feature photography would be a significant factor in transforming the document from a mundane planning document into a visionary guidebook for a world-class city. Covive carried the torch more than halfway, building out a document template 225 pages long with draft or placeholder content to accommodate nearly every variable, including 14 planning districts each with their own unique maps and variable content. Covive handed off an Adobe InDesign file with clearly organized master pages, paragraph styles, and color swatches, and provided training for city staff in use of the template.

Goal Illustrations

A major feature of the comprehensive plan is the “Plan Elements” section, with 8 goals in three categories — Land, Connectivity, and Opportunity — with each goal having multiple objectives and supporting actionable policies. Together with the city, Covive determined that the goals would be the best opportunity for adding color coding to aid in organization. Rather than using simple icons to represent the complex objectives within each goal, Covive designed custom line illustrations, with freelancer Jessica Miller, showcasing big ideas in a proprietary custom style. A color palette, along a spectrum of hues, takes into account readability, distinctness, and appropriateness for the goal each color represents. Illustrations are showcased prominently on the intro page for each goal chapter.

Plan Summary Document

Upon completion of the Comprehensive Plan document, the City asked Covive to adapt the full plan into a shorter Plan Summary in a standard, easily-printable letter-size format. Covive provided design and production to prepare the 86-page summary.

The Herculean effort of designing and producing the 400-page Comprehensive Plan document in close collaboration with the City and their primary urban planning consultants, was completed in just four months, commencing in August 2018 and ending with a public review draft released by the City on December 14, 2018. Overall, it was a fantastic collaboration, allowing Covive to lend its expertise in organizing and presenting complex information while inspiring action for citizenship and sustainability in this legendary and forward-looking U.S. City.

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