X Marks the Arts

Iowa City’s Cultural and Entertainment District Campaign

Meld partnered with the Iowa City Downtown District (ICDD) and with dozens of local arts and culture leaders and University of Iowa partners to create the dynamic new marketing campaign: X Marks the Arts.

The branded campaign creates a unifying voice and visual to promote the Iowa City’s Cultural & Entertainment District. It’s built to speak directly to the more than 9 million people who visit downtown Iowa City each year—whether they are local or from the state, the region, or beyond.

The Downtown District is home to one of Iowa’s more comprehensive collections of live music venues, museums, historic theaters, independent cinemas, galleries and mission-driven organizations, creating a vibrant tourist destination.

XMTA TShirt 3
XMTA icon hat

Strong Brand Recognition

X Marks the Arts was designed to create an overarching  brand that can spotlight different locations, neighborhoods, and venues. 

X is where it all happens. It’s where: 

  • Hancher Auditorium features Broadway productions and concerts.
  • Film Scene showcases documentaries and independent films. 
  • The Englert Theatre serves as the city’s historic playhouse and arts center.
  • Prairie Lights is an iconic independent book store that’s home to books written by University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduates and Pulitzer Prize winners. 
  • The University of Iowa Stanley Museum has a Pollock and other internationally renowned art gracing its walls. 
  • The Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature is one of 42 Cities of Literature around the world.
XMTA Street Banners 2 2

X Marks The Arts Brand Patterns

The X has a custom look and feel that allows it to convey both a memorable mark and be used quite literally as wayfinding to locations.The inspiration for it came from the ways in which the Downtown has many blocks and intersections where arts and culture venues are located. The design is flexible enough that it can also be used in a more abstract way.


From Facilitation to Launch

Discovery, Competitor Research, and Survey

Meld led the core Committee through a series of discovery sessions to help translate the group’s vision into a cohesive and compelling campaign that would engage arts and culture organizations and the public. Meld also conducted a competitor review of inspirational city arts initiatives across the nation and collaborated on a survey that was sent to every cultural, arts, and entertainment group in the District to gather input and feedback.

Creative Campaign Development

Meld created the campaign name and developed a dynamic logo and brand identity. We also created a brand guide that outlined the brand tone and personality and featured messaging pillars and stories that represent the core of why Iowa City is at the epicenter of the arts in the state of Iowa.

A Launch Plan

Meld also created a campaign launch plan, providing recommendations on key deliverables, timelines, and how the campaign should be rolled out to the public. Meld also sponsored and hosted the campaign launch at ICDD’s First Round event which was held at FilmScene. Meld also promoted the launch through its own social channels and marketing efforts. 

XMTA Melinda Post
XMTA CBJ Article 1
CBJ X Marks The Arts Article

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