Focused research and discussion with key stakeholders helps Mindshape craft fresh visual identity for north GTA municipality

Case Study by David Brown RGD, Principal, and Dayna Pollard, Account Coordinator, Mindshape

The Town of Newmarket issued a Public RFP for Research and Rebranding. After review and an in-depth credentials presentation, Mindshape was retained to complete the rebranding initiative.


Project Overview: 

In 2013, MoneySense magazine ranked Newmarket 10th out of 200 cities in Canada, and 4th out of the "Top 10 Small Cities" in Canada in its "Canada's Best Places to Live in 2013”. Newmarket shaped much of Canada’s early history and in the late 1800’s created the Newmarket Coat Arms as its formal identity. Although strongly associated to its past, the crest did not embody Newmarket’s diverse and prosperous future. In order to ensure Newmarket was being represented as a dynamic and forward-thinking municipality, the Town required a new brand reflective of its economic development and growth strategy.


Previous Identity: 


New Identity: 




Mindshape approached the design of Newmarket's new visual identity with four main areas of focus in mind: 

  1. Economic development – attract businesses outside of Newmarket
  2. Business retention – retain existing businesses within the municipality
  3. Community building - excite residents, attract new residents
  4. Stature - strengthen relationships with local and provincial governments


Design Process 

The first 3 months were devoted to research and brand strategy, followed by presentation and acceptance through Town Council (approx 2 months). The creative process for creating the visual identity took 3 months and the actual roll-out was handled by the Town of Newmarket through a soft release over a period of 4 months. Overall, the entire project took approximately one year to complete. 


The creative process was driven by an in-depth research study that looked at global rebranding trends for municipalities, competitive differentiations, Newmarket values and target audience influences. Redefining an entire Town with many stakeholders and citizen interests requires sensitivity to the concerns that may arise, along with a sound strategy that can defend subjective commentary. Balancing the two allowed Mindshape to meet  challenges head on and deliver Newmarket an identity that exceeded everyone's expectations.



As David Brown RGD, President of Mindshape noted, “We were very much a partner with Newmarket, they were actively involved in decision making through Communications, Town Council and the Mayor’s Office. We collaborated with each of these diverse groups and they in turn provided Mindshape the space we needed to develop the brand strategy and creative. The outcome is a solid brand strategy and truly unique identity that exemplifies Newmarket’s differentiating brand promise."



Four types of research were used for this project:

  1. A web insight study exploring global trends - Mindshape identified a movement among municipalities / townships toward modernization and attraction of a diverse 'creative set' - those aspiring to innovation and active lifestyles.
  2. An online poll of local residents
  3. Executive interviews with key business leaders and municipal stakeholders
  4. Focus groups - A representative group of the Town's residents and business leaders helped identify cultural and economic values that formed the salient points in guiding Newmarket's new identity. 




Newmarket has an ambitious growth strategy that will benefit its residents and local business communities. With limited geographical sprawl, vertical development and intensification represents an opportunity for concentration on growth industries such as professional services and health sciences. Connecting with the active lifestyle of the “creative set”, through graphic representation of Newmarket’s expansive lakes and green spaces with the landmark Davis Drive arc resulted in a new brand identity that captures the very essence of the Town of Newmarket and its future vision.



Designer Takeaways

  1. You can’t predict design by committee – Be prepared for difficult questions, have a solid strategy and budget for multiple reiterations.
  2. Keep it simple – Municipalities are ever-changing and do not deliver one thing to all people. Keep the ideas open ended, but base them on cornerstones of values and vision.
  3. Never give in – On large projects with multiple stakeholders there will be delays, setbacks and unrelated subjective criticism. Stay focused and on-strategy and the reward of great work and client gratitude will prevail.

Client Takeaways

  1. Be prepared for change and compromise – Everyone is on board at the outset but as time moves towards commitments, most large committees are rarely on the same page.
  2. Roll up and roll out – Phasing in a new identity can cause confusion and mixed messaging. It is best to have a roll out plan in advance and be prepared to invest in a full launch.
  3. Inspire the masses – Change impacts everyone. By creating a positive energy around rebranding before roll out, you will have greater acceptance.


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