Rebranding from Compass360 generates community support for creative space

Case Study by Mark Buchner RGD, TBD Studio


In 2007, SmartCentres put forth a proposal to redevelop 22 acres of land in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood, which also encompassed the former site of Toronto Film Studios. As the original agency that created the Toronto Film Studios brand, Compass360 was once again tasked with branding the studios.



The proposal called for the studios to be razed and in its place a series of big box stores would be built. Based on community objections the project was put on hold and for a number of years the land and studios sat mostly unused, briefly acting as a detention centre during the G20 summit. In 2012, SmartCentres proposed a new development project which would mix retail and office space. The highlight, and catalyst for the project, would be a resurrection of the film studios. 



The first stage was to research and establish the project's strategy and positioning. These findings would then inform the naming and design stages. The naming phase produced a myriad of options, but the clear winner was “Revival”, which represents the studio's rise from inactivity and references the planned revitalization of the surrounding neighbourhood.



Once the name was chosen, we began to explore visual identity. The new brand needed to communicate findings from the research stage, which indicated that the studio should no longer cater to just film and television production. Instead it would evolve to also serve digital and other creative companies. The solution involved several executions based around a number of design elements. One of the main logo elements is a refined “R”, featuring a hand holding a lighted torch made up by the negative space in the letterform.



The first major application of the brand was to the studio and management buildings. The exterior had previously been painted in Miami-esque pastels which had faded over the years. In collaboration with architecture firm Quadrangle and interior designer Jennifer Heimpel, colours were selected to refresh the facility and represent the new identity.


Extensive signage for the studios included the front entrance gate and the side facade of a building. The main building was given a Hollywood-inspired treatment – during the day, the eight-foot high logotype on top of the roof appears as stark white and in the evening it produces a warm orange glow. The installation and effect was possible thanks to a close collaboration with Forward Signs. The rest of the exterior and interior signage was treated with a variety of materials and lighting techniques.



Another significant brand application was the creation of design and content for a new website. The site needed to be flexible enough to roll out in two phases: a launch phase to highlight the film studio space and a follow-up phase to introduce Revival as a full creative centre. The design language for the site was kept modular to allow sections to be moved and reused from one phase to the next without having to be redesigned, saving time and cost. Aside from architectural renderings, content for the site was primarily produced in-house. Voice and tone for the brand was established early on, and the website was the first implementation. Photo shoots of the buildings were art directed to highlight the progress of the restoration as well as the raw defining features which would provide character once the renovation was complete. 



A major aspect of the project involved positioning Revival as a centre for creative and digital companies and selling available leasing space within the studio lot. The challenge was to attract companies away from the current tech centre in the west-end of Toronto, Liberty Village, and bring them across the city to the decidedly less hip east-end. Competition was also increasing from campuses on the Waterfront, where development for these types of projects was just getting underway.


The solution was to create a campaign to establish and promote east-end pride. Centred around the tagline “East is the New West”, large roadside signage was placed targeting east-end creatives who commute to the west. A photo shoot of local restaurants and bars helped demonstrate the vitality of the community and build awareness of the burgeoning east-end bar and restaurant scene.




The leasing campaign proved very effective – it wasn’t long before the majority of available space was spoken for. The success of the campaign also set up the possibility for future expansion of Revival to accommodate more tenants.


On the film and television side, there has been great response to the re-opened studios. The transformed space has been successfully re-introduced to the industry and production space is often full. The brand has received much praise and the branded caps, totes and mugs are highly sought after.



Using Revival as the cornerstone of a mixed use development, a new proposal was put forth to the community and this time it was met with a highly favourable response. The resurrection of the film studio and the transformation of it into a creative centre demonstrated to the community that this new proposal would bring a positive change to their neighbourhood. The new brand inspired confidence and brought the community together.




Designer Takeaways 

  1. Endeavour to foster good client relationships. This was our third successful branding project for this client.
  2. Think about how your projects can have a positive impact on the community.
  3. Brand messaging is as important as visuals.


Client Takeaways

We were fortunate that our client demonstrated a strong understanding of the following:

  1. Building a strong brand takes time and a well defined process.
  2. Having trust and faith in your agency will produce better results.
  3. Brand design is best implemented collaboratively. Have your brand agency work alongside any architects, interior designers and sign makers to ensure the design is cohesive and effective.




Case Study by Mark Buchner RGD, TBD Studio

Agency: Compass360
Client: Revival
Creative Director: John Cook
Design Director: Mark Buchner RGD
Digital Director: Scott Wise
Content + Strategy: David Friend
Photography: Greg Bennett

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