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Providence, Rhode Island
City Branding Study

City Image | Logo Key Challenge
Big shoes for a brand to fill.  Sometimes a city’s challenge is simply living up to the expectations its heritage has set.  Such was the case with Providence, RI.  Founded as a place for religious freedom, Providence was first referred to as a lively experiment. Today, the experiment has proved to be more than successful and continues in spirit. The city’s very essence is openness . . . to experimentation, improvisation, self-expression and independence.  In fact, original thinking is the mantra of Providence.  Whether you’re talking industry, art, education or lifestyle the people of this tiny – but oh so dynamic – capital city don’t want to be pigeonholed into a solitary way of thinking.

How then to develop a powerful identity that embodies Providence’s quicksilver creativity and captures the diversity of her people without boxing the city into a rigid image? 

Critical Insight
North Star research found that just as original thinking and flexibility are watchwords of the Providence spirit, so must they be cornerstones of the Providence brand. The key was to provide a brand armature in which original thinking can flourish and be realized. And, because Providence is one of the top 25 art destinations in the country and home to some of the most revered institutions of higher learning, it was also critical that the brand armature involve and engage the city’s best creative minds on an ongoing basis.  “We wanted the brand to be absolutely defining but infinitely flexible,” explained North Star CEO Don McEachern.

Brand Strategy
North Star recommended a strategy that establishes Providence as a vibrant northeastern city where original thinking is expansive and every experience is personal. 

The creative approach uses the Providence “P” as a framework for an infinite number of themes designed to reflect the essence of the city.  That idea, coupled with the line, The Creative Capital, lets the Providence brand grow and change. (Plus it’s a triple entendre giving a nod to the city’s position as state capital, use of the capital “P” and the economic capital that Providence generates with its creativity!)

Initial Concept

One of the ways North Star brings your brand to life is with a Brand Identity package, which is the creative representation of your identity. Creative goodies include recommendations for a logo, strap line, color palette, print ads, outdoor boards, t-shirts, websites and more!  (Note:  The “initial concept” is North Star’s recommendation.  As our client’s brand implementation progresses we will provide their “evolution of the idea”!)

City Image | Look1 City Image | Look2 City Image | Look 3


Evolution of the Idea

City Image | Evolution City Image | Evolution 2 City Image | Evolution 3

City Image | Providence Web

  • A “P” that gets the people involved . . . The iconic “P” logo is featured on the website in a variety of unique colorful versions created by the city’s citizenry.  Bottom line; when your people are this clever, why not put them to work!


  • Local artists were commissioned to develop custom “P” designs and crafted banners to display citywide.

    City Image | BAI

  • Municipal trucks, the skating rink, recycling bins and other key city elements now proudly bear the brand.
City Image | Evolution4 City Image | Evolution 5 City Image | Evolution 6


  • Economic Development Recruiting Package: A series of cards held together with a branded rubber band.  Cards spotlight the arts, a message from the mayor and wave making entrepreneurs. Pictures on the fronts of cards show these creative gurus in their work environment with the prominent orange “P” in the background.  


  • Economic Development Recruiting Package A series of informational slicks on topics ranging from relocation assistance, business loan programs and workforce development.  And true to the brand, many of the pictures feature the “P”!  

  • Tourism Advertising:  Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Providence one of America’s favorite cities.  That’s because it is Pfun with a capital P!  All tourism advertising has been revamped to represent the new brand.


Brand Action

Bringing a two-dimensional brand to life in a three-dimensional community takes a strong brand action plan. Following are a sampling of action ideas from the hundreds developed specifically for Providence. All were designed to help them wear their brand like a second skin.

  • Light up the night sky - Work with the businesses in downtown skyscrapers to arrange for lights in the shape of a P to be left on.  You can partner with one business in this effort or for maximum impact; the night sky could be lit up with P’s in a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Create a playground with P - Creativity and play go hand in hand.  Celebrate the power of play and its relationship to the creativity of Providence with a “P” Playground.  Work with local artists to develop a playground made entirely out of interlocking “Ps”.  Ps can be made out of all materials that are safe for children and painted in bright and interesting ways.  For example, children can wait in the curved circle at the top of the P in order to slide down the stem.  A P on its side can become a set of monkey bars.  An upside down P can sport a climbing wall. 
  • Involve local businesses - Create a distinct role for local businesses when rolling out the brand.  For example, encourage them to create a new menu of branded offerings designed to entice more visitors. Your local businesses could offer tips on artistically plating food; jewelry making, scrap booking your treasured memories; sketching a portrait; landscape design, etc.  A few industries to focus on:
    • Restaurants – Invite top chefs to develop a signature “Creative Capital” dish (maybe the dish features something in the shape of a P). Consider submitting a feature to various food magazines that walks through all of the unique dishes. Perhaps a traveling show on the Food Network could cover the fun!
    • Jewelry – Encourage jewelers to design exquisite “Creative Capital” pieces. 
    • Botanical Gardens – Challenge landscape architects at the top Providence garden to create a Perennial Path (or something similar) shaped like a giant P.


The Bottom Line: Rebranding a City

Brand Helps Providence Tell Its Story

In Hard Times, Rhode Island's Capital Hopes New Slogan Proves Providential


  • Travel + Leisure Magazine has named Providence one of America’s favorite cities.
  • In just 10 weeks, the new site,, received visitors from 29 countries and 44 states – key metrics, since the main audiences are outside of Providence and Rhode Island
  • In 2010, REBRAND named Providence as one of their Winning Brands:
Rebrand Award



"We have enjoyed every step ofthe branding process with North Star. I had always hoped that we would end up with something that offered the permanence that a brand requires along with the flexibility that would allow for creativity and fun. North Star helped us accomplish these twin goals with great success.

As important as the result was, the research process has proven equally vital to our work. We learned a great deal about ourselves in the brand research and are using that information to propel the brand in service of our economic development and tourism goals.

It is a pleasure to be associated with a project that is a winner on every count -- it's a clever brand with real meaning and an inherent sense of fun...pretty much like Providence itself.

Whenever I give the brand presentation, I am met with great enthusiasm and interest in the brand across all constituencies. People can't wait to find ways to use the brand within their own environment."

- Kibbe Reilly, Project Manager for the Providence Brand Team.


Copyright 2005 North Star Destination Strategies