Uptown in the Circle

Case Study

Brand Experience, Brand Identity, Branded Environment, Civic Branding, Co-Branding, Messaging, Placemaking

Uptown in the Circle is an established district of Cleveland with a lot going for it: proximity to higher education, premium healthcare facilities, arts and entertainment, and more. With an address placing it within the perimeter of lively University Circle, the urban mixed-use area has been redeveloped over the past ten years to better support the tenants and community.


Despite the many desirable attributes of the district, Uptown never fully came to life with development initiatives and foot traffic dwindled for the shops, restaurants and nightlife occupying the space. Adding to the complexity of Uptown’s situation were the numerous stakeholders involved in managing the space. The project is overseen by real estate leads at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) and University Circle, Inc. (UCI), as well as the Cleveland Institute of Art, MOCA, and developer MRN.

“We thought our mixed-use project, Uptown, needed branding and marketing support, but Rachel and her team quickly assessed that we needed to take a step back and get our stakeholders aligned around a clear vision first. The process helped identify a compelling vision that is rooted in authenticity – one that can drive our decisions about product, programming and experiences well into the future.”

Chris Ronayne, President, University Circle, Inc.

Uptown Inset - Core Values
Uptown Inset - Vision


This project was a collaboration between Guide Studio and Placeholder.

  • Stakeholders came together for a facilitated deep dive into who they (the district) are, what they offer, and how they can work together to reawaken the district, and developed a clear and unified vision that would position them for increased tenant and visitor interest, as well as future growth.
  • Working with stakeholders, we identified and prioritized opportunities to support the vision, including (1) investing in public spaces with design interventions and creative programming that piques interest and creates a place where people want to stay and explore, (2) creating a better balance of tenants that offer something unique and different, and (3) enhancing the authenticity of the area by creating opportunities for visitors and students to make Uptown their own.
  • With a clear vision and roadmap for the future, we began to define many of the key themes and develop positioning that differentiated WHY Uptown is important to the community. To further inform the direction, Guide Studio conducted focus groups to test the concepts with current and target audiences.

“This is all about building a destination that is worth visiting,” said Ronayne. “Using vision and purpose to get our stakeholders aligned and on the same page has been incredibly effective in what we’ve accomplished so far. We’re on the right path to make Uptown the right place for our tenants and our audiences.”

Chris Ronayne, President, University Circle, Inc.

Uptown Inset - Logo


The end result is an identity that speaks to the multi-dimensional nature of the area. Visuals, including the new logo, are geometric and colorful – a nod to the art and science institutions that culminate in Uptown. These colors are also practical and highly intentional: Guide selected each shade to compliment the identities of stakeholders. The look provides a cohesive style that works across a variety of marketing elements.

These components are slowly taking shape. The initial launch included Guide-produced materials that will help attract right-fit tenants, as well as more visitors: a new website design, signage and additional branding materials.

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