• Transform magazine
  • February 04, 2023


Former Minnesota jail reimagined as new apartment living brand

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Minneapolis-based branding agency Fellow was tasked by New History, an adaptive reuse development company, with convincing modern city dwellers in Duluth to live in a building that was once the St. Louis County Jail. Naming the new apartment building ‘Leijona’, Fellow’s work was informed by its Neoclassical architecture.

With nearly 100 years of history under its belt, the building was designed as part of the ‘City Beautiful’ movement by renowned architect Daniel Burnham, who was also responsible for designing New York City’s Flatiron Building twenty years prior. Initially part of Duluth Civic Centre, it now hosts 33 newly developed apartments which Fellow helped brand for its new purpose.

“This is as rare as branding challenges get, and we were thrilled to take it on,” says Michael Seitz, creative director at Fellow Inc. “In order to convince people to voluntarily live in a jail and embrace this unique living space, we knew we needed a compelling counterpoint to its harsh history in the form of an inviting brand story.”

Fellow recognised the key to unlocking the building’s new narrative lied with its neoclassical architectural details. Noticing that “dignified” lions were etched into the corbels, Fellow’s creative co-founder, Eric Luoma, believed they signalled the “brave spirit” of Duluth. Given the industrial city was helped formed by Finnish immigrants, naming the new apartment building ‘Leijona’ (the Finnish word for lion) seemed a natural decision.

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Karl Wolf, creative co-founder of Fellow Inc, adds, “As if formed by bricks, each serif-styled syllable within the Leijona primary logomark sits within a unique, modular block, allowing for a variety of applications and formations.

“A monoweight illustration of the lion is an iconographic shorthand for the brand. And the broader brand identity system strikes a considered balance between legacy and modernity, featuring a colour palette based on the warm neutrals in the original lobby’s terrazzo floors.”

Its new residents are set to be welcomed into Leijona in January 2023.