Located in the heart of the RiNo Art District, Improper City curates Denver’s finest food trucks, craft beer, local artists and community-led events, offering space to partake, participate, or just park it.
The goal from the beginning was to create a homegrown brand. One that serves a greater Denver audience yet stays true to the RiNo Art District neighborhood.
Everyone liked the idea of including some historical significance, but, like much of the American west, Denver’s story isn’t much more than gold mining and violence. Not exactly a well of inspiration. Then we stumbled upon an excerpt by a British travel writer, on her way to the Rockies. She wrote about Denver…
Like an oasis, her perspective was a spring of imagination. And thus, our concept was born. We’d lean into this fictional fantasy and tell the story of Denver, the divine accident that survived in the middle of nowhere. The Improper City.
The Improper City mark was heavily influenced by two local images: the Denver city flag, and the neighborhood mascot.
Denver’s flag depicts two mountains with a sun in the middle. Makes sense. Rocky Mountain majesty. 300 days of sunshine. It’s great.
Then there’s the orange rhino, which represents more than a membership with the RiNo non-profit, it’s a badge of honor. A tribal tattoo, worn by street artists and business owners alike. Rhinos are everywhere.
What about that bird, though? The oxpecker, an African bird that hangs out on large animals, feeding on the bugs they attract. A lovely, natural image of symbiosis and community vibes, perfect for the neighborhood.
But we wanted more. Who is it and where did it come from?
We saw an opportunity to give this mysterious character a backstory.
In RiNo fashion, we put on our tripped-out Rose Kingsley glasses and added another verse to Denver’s mythical history. Those are no ordinary mountains. They are the gaping jaws of a planet-sized bird, ever seeking to devour the sun!
Angels dropping cities? Bird gods eating stars? Now we’re getting somewhere.
This approach allowed us to tell local stories in endlessly creative ways.
The Improper bird’s informal nickname is “Isabella” after another English explorer Isabella Bird, a hero of Rose’s.
In line with our distorted reality concept, the basis for the color palette came from inverting the colors of the flag. Another opportunity to appropriate Denver’s image and make it our own.
From the client
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