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A Tiny Maine Optical That Knows How to Make a Big Impact

With the help of local artists, they injected a little rebelliousness into their branding look.

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North Optical is tucked into 320 sq. ft. in Portland, Maine’s East End.

MINIMALIST AND MODERN with an attitude,” is how owner Chris Wheaton describes the branding at North Optical in Portland, ME. Doing a lot with a little is a concept that befits an optical tucked into 320 square feet within the “Black Box,” a retail space created out of shipping containers in the city’s East End.

Wheaton is a student of the history of logo design and typography, and cites them as key influences, along with architecture, furniture and interior design. “While a lot of my inspiration comes from famous schools of design like Bauhaus, I also love old-school hardcore band logos and posters. So I try to instill a little bit of rebelliousness into the branding as well.”

Branded materials include business cards, totes, stickers, postcards, posters, coasters, coozies, custom candles and cleaning spray. “I am always looking for new and fun things to put my logo on or a new design from a local artist.”

Wheaton keeps things simple “so that I can mess with it and do really fun things on a whim… like a sticker of cyclops driving a monster truck carrying a flag with my logo on it. Because why not? But it also allows me to be more serious too.”

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North Optical’s branding was also intended to be a platform for local artists and designers. The basic design work is handled by Portland’s Andrew Scripter/Wing Club Press, which also prints most of the materials.

“I work with only local artists, photographers and whenever possible use local printing services,” says Wheaton.

If you’re looking for a branding boost, Wheaton says a good way to begin is to seek out a local business with a strong brand image and a similar clientele, and partner with them. “Something as simple as a photo shoot can be invaluable for upping your brand image,” he says.

Second, Wheaton advises approaching a local designer or artist whose work you love; sometimes artists will be willing to accept payment in trade.

“Also, people love swag. Reusable screen-printed totes are great guerrilla marketing. I think that it’s all about the little things — a customer’s experience can easily be brought to the next level with something as simple as a postcard.”

PHOTO GALLERY (4 IMAGES)

After years covering some of the farther flung corners of the world of business journalism, Heath has more recently focused on covering the efforts of independent eyecare professionals to negotiate a fast-changing industry landscape. Contact him at [email protected]

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