Responses by Lauren Wong, associate strategy director, Character
Background: The Stronach Group, a leading player in North American horse racing, asked us to create a new brand that could transform a historic 200-year-old sport and attract a new generation of fans. We built a brand as bold and visionary as the ambitions of its leaders—making radical reforms within the oval track and expanding beyond the oval to gaming, hospitality and entertainment. We helped create an entirely new brand, name, positioning, verbal identity and visual identity to tell the story of the sport’s future.
Reasoning: Through our collaboration, we saw the importance of the sport’s legacy on everyone, from the families who care for the horses to the fans who go to big races like the Preakness Stakes. We wanted to pay homage to the heritage without losing the energy that makes the sport feel modern. That remix of heritage and modern boldness inspired every part of our system, from the name 1/ST to our visual and verbal identity. The new system led to a full rebrand across four historic venues, music festivals, world-class races, a new wagering app and a TV broadcast network.
Challenges: We immersed ourselves in all of the shifts changing the sport—from new national legislation about animal rights advocacy to the internal debate among industry leaders. It became clear that this brand needed to illustrate a powerful vision for the future that could convince diverse stakeholder groups to rally around it.
Favorite details: We love how the name reinforces our brand positioning of radical reinvention. The name 1/ST signals the call to leadership and the constant pursuit of progress. For the public and fans, it’s a commitment to constantly innovate new experiences. For the team, it reminds us that we have to earn the right to call the company 1/ST every day.
Visual influences: Our visual system was inspired by the culture of horse racing. We took traditional jockey silks and developed a generative pattern tool that remixed geometric shapes to make traditional forms more contemporary. We brought in handwritten annotations inspired by the small rituals of horse racing wagering. Our overall system is rooted in competition, with references to the oval shape of the track, the rows and the dynamic movements. And within that system, we clashed serif and sans serif typefaces to reflect the past and the modern—bringing new energy to our design language.
Anything new: We learned a lot about the rich visual heritage that surrounds the sport. There’s so much meaning on both sides of a single race, and we wanted to capture the elements that felt truest to the jockey as well as the fan. Some of these elements, like the silks or the banners, have been around since the beginning of the sport. We wanted to find a way to pay homage to the past but reinvent it in a way that felt right for today.