The role of ‘Placetypes’ in Shaping Community Identity and Brand

4 min read

At CivicBrand, we work on community branding and placemaking projects as well as visioning and strategic planning efforts for comprehensive planning and master planning projects. While branding may seem very different from land use planning, they are extremely connected and placetypes offer a more nuanced approach to land use that is more directly connected to place brand and identity.

Understanding Placetypes

The way cities and communities are designed has a significant impact on their identity and brand. In the world of urban planning and development, the concept of “placetypes” has emerged as a more nuanced approach to land use and neighborhood context. Unlike the traditional and somewhat oversimplified zoning classifications of residential or commercial, placetypes take into account the multifaceted elements that shape a community’s character.

Placetypes, at their core, are a response to the shortcomings of traditional zoning practices. Zoning codes typically focus on separating land uses into discrete categories like residential, commercial, and industrial. While this approach serves a functional purpose, it overlooks the complex and interrelated nature of communities. Instead, placetypes recognize that the true character of a place is a result of multiple factors that all work together.

Placetypes categorize areas based on a combination of factors such as architectural style, scale, density, public spaces, transportation options, and community engagement. By considering these diverse elements, placetypes offer a more holistic view of a neighborhood or district. This approach allows for a more nuanced understanding of the unique attributes and potential of different areas within a community.

The Relationship between Placetypes & Brand Identity

Placetypes play a pivotal role in shaping the identity and brand of a community in multiple ways:

Creating Unique Experiences: Each placetype has its own distinctive characteristics and atmosphere. For example, a “Historic Main Street” placetype exudes charm and nostalgia, while a “Transit-Oriented Development” placetype emphasizes connectivity and accessibility. These unique experiences contribute to the overall identity of a community and while they could have a similar mix of housing and commercial their overall character, identity, and architecture would be very different.


Fostering a Sense of Place: Placetypes also help create a sense of place by emphasizing the features that make an area special. When you specifically define those elements and characteristics that create a sense of place it makes implementation easier to ensure future development projects that you choose are inline and contributing to that overall placetype. Whether it’s the adaptive reuse of a once-industrial area or the more open green spaces these designations help residents and visitors connect with the environment on a deeper level. Both provide similar gathering areas for residents but have a very different feel and identity.


Economic Development and Tourism: A well-defined placetype can attract investment and tourism by offering a distinct appeal and casting a common vision for an area. It is easier for a developer or visitor to see where they fit in and decide if it’s a fit for them if a place has a strong identity. Areas with generic identities will attract generic development.  A “Cultural Arts District” placetype will draw artists, galleries, and cultural events, bolstering the community’s identity as a hub of creativity and culture while a “Technology Innovation Zone,” can attract tech startups and entrepreneurs, solidifying the community’s brand as a center for innovation.


It all leads to civic pride

In an era where community identity and branding are vital for attracting residents, businesses, and visitors, the concept of placetypes offers a refreshing and nuanced approach to planning. Placetypes allow you to layer in the nuances of how everything works together. By doing that, you define a true vision and identity for an area. This is also what branding is all about. It gives people tangible tools such as words, colors, styles, and feelings. It’s hard to love something that you can’t clearly identify and articulate. That is why sports teams give their fans colors, mascots, and jerseys as brand tools to express their love for the team. Cities can do the same and utilize place branding along with placetypes to better articulate and define their community and distinct neighborhoods and districts. After all, the greatest cities in the world are just collections of great neighborhoods. When people identify with their neighborhood’s placetype, they become more engaged in its development, preservation, and promotion. All of that leads to greater civic pride, which is the end goal of everything we do at CivicBrand.


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