San Francisco’s historic Ferry Building is a local landmark and hub of the city, originally built in 1898 and restored as an upscale marketplace beginning in 2003. It is an impressive structure and a familiar part of the waterfront for over a century, and is now a popular spot for tourists and locals to enjoy a unique socializing/shopping experience while perusing the breathtaking vintage architecture. The Wine Merchant needed an identity that echoed the sophisticated classic-meets-modern optics and atmosphere of the building.
To design for this iconic venue required delving into her history and appreciating the Victorian ethos of craftsmanship and artistic beauty, from the Eiffel-inspired ornate supporting ironwork, to the precision masonry and decorative touches endemic to important structures of the era. This was, after all, the place that welcomed visitors and daily commuters disembarking from the ferry across San Francisco Bay, long before any of the area’s famed bridges were built. Those bridges and their automobile traffic put an end to the Ferry Building’s former glory, and it was converted to office space in the fifties. Suspended ceilings hid away the gorgeous ironwork, and the building languished in the shadow of the double-deck Embarcadero Freeway until the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the overpass and, together with the area’s epic economic rise in the ’90s, ushered in a building and restoration renaissance.
After spending some time studying the building, the logo began to emerge organically. The typeface was reflective of the ironwork, based on a strong, masculine, Victorian worker aesthetic, with the solid lines of a banking ethos with an ornate but not overly florid decorative homage to the style of the period. The clock tower morphed into a wine bottle, and the keystone arches of the various stalls and windows becoming wine glasses, inverted as if hanging from a rack. This was my first idea. There wasn’t really a long, back-and-forth process for this one; iterations were minor, mainly involving color. The client loved the design immediately.
I loved this project — every moment of it, from my initial VIP access to the building in its early restoration process, seeing the almost-forgotten craftsmanship of bricks and ironwork that had been hidden for over fifty years, to the hours spent in fascinated study of the landmark’s history, to sketching and forming an image that would itself become an icon of the San Francisco waterfront. Tens of thousands of people walk past my sign each day — a sign that receives endless positive feedback and generates goodwill, sophistication, and a strong brand for the client.