Creative in association withGear Seven
ThoughtMatter Embodies the Heartbeat of Harlem with Identity for Real Estate Development Quintet
Marketing & PR
San Francisco, USA
Taking a modern, musical approach, the studio delivers a brand that reflects the borough’s rich history while respecting its community and culture

As we enter a new era in metropolitan residential real estate, cities across the US face the prospect of modernization, repairs and renovations to meet current needs. In New York alone, the NYC Housing Authority estimates that those renovations represent $32 billion dollars in unmet capital.

Enter L+M Development Partners - a real estate developer that recently acquired five NYC buildings that had originally been constructed for an affordable housing program in the 1970s. L+M sought to renovate and modernize the properties without alienating residents or detracting from the buildings’ cultural and historical significance. This included communicating their vision - rooted in building and maintaining community. Recognising this challenge, L+M partnered with New York-based brand design studio ThoughtMatter to launch Quintet - a development designed to uphold the rich narrative of one of New York’s most storied neighbourhoods.

With the restoration of Quintet’s five buildings – four in Harlem, one on Roosevelt Island – L+M hoped to make it clear that they didn’t intend to displace long-time residents, instead maintaining a percentage of rental units as affordable housing and reserving space for nonprofit organizations, a senior living center and other resources that can support the neighborhood. With ThoughtMatter, they found a team experienced in tapping into the voice of a neighborhood and community-building through design.  

“L+M was drawn to our work with other communities and neighborhoods; projects where we branded places like Staten Island and Union Square,” explains ThoughtMatter creative director Ben Greengrass. “They were looking for an agency that offered a different perspective and more unique style from some of the usual suspects that you might expect to be in the property design portfolio.”

True to form, ThoughtMatter took an unexpected approach, first attending community meetings to listen to people's concerns about the new development. From this research, they were able to address those concerns through design by focusing on community, not just the modern amenities of the buildings–ensuring the Quintet felt inclusive and a part of the neighborhood's fabric.

The resulting brands are centered around the idea of 'The Heartbeat of Harlem', a nod to musical legends synonymous with the neighborhood, including Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and Charlie Parker. This unifying concept not only forms the foundation of the messaging and designs, but the name of the overall development. 

“The portfolio brand name ThoughtMatter landed on – Quintet – communicates the number of buildings in the portfolio while alluding to the importance of music in Harlem’s culture and history,” continues Greengrass. “Neighborhoods have a history of famous musicians that are inherent to the vibe of the neighborhood, so we updated the names of the individual buildings to create a sense of cohesion – for example, The Miles and The Parker. Other buildings kept elements of their original names to maintain some familiarity for long-time residents. River Crossing became The Crossing while Roosevelt Landings became The Landings.”

The identity is also defined by a unifying font and rhythmic animation style for each of the buildings. Mimicking the building’s brutalist architecture, the typeface is blocky but flexible enough through to give it a unique personality and energy. Each building brand is also designed with its own color palette that still feels cohesive when displayed together. Overall, ThoughtMatter delivered the brand strategy, brand architecture, naming, photography, animations, and messaging. The Quintet website was done in collaboration with Razz Interactive which handled development.

For ThoughtMatter, the project proved to be the perfect application of their skills and interests - tackling community building, social justice issues and the power of design to address challenges in rapidly changing times. “Everything about Quintet communicates the new life these buildings have been given through recent renovations to modernize the interiors and facades,” says Managing Director Jessie McGuire. “Now, with this new brand identity, L+M can drive home their respect for this historic neighborhood – appealing equally to the people who already live in the buildings and to new potential renters. Neighborhoods always evolve, but that doesn’t mean it has to happen at the expense of the residents. We’re happy to be a part of a real estate project that considers the concerns of the people and the culture they have built.”