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Creating a “you have arrived” experience for Browns Players & Fans.

Jim Mollica

If you‘re a Browns fan, at some point, you‘ve likely visited the training facility located in Berea, Ohio. In my opinion, this fuels the annual “This is going to be the year” anticipatory build up. You get to watch your favorite players run drills and you can spy the latest batch of draft picks. The facility itself is beautiful. The main entrance/atrium has a 50 foot ceiling and light pores in through the cascading floor-to-ceiling glass. The hallways bare the same affect. There was still something to be desired in regards to a cohesive experience. However, that matter was handled by a local architecture firm in 2013. That‘s not what this story is about. I‘m writing it, so selfishly it‘s about Trait‘s involvement some years ago.

The Spring of ’05

In the spring of 2005, Browns signed Romeo Crennel for the 2-year term position of head coach. He came from the New England Patriots, and he was familiar with their exemplary brand experience that touches all aspects of their organization. He was surprised to see that the Browns put little consideration into how the visual communication could impact player moral. His team and the Browns marketing department spearheaded a redesign of the interior brand graphics. The system in place was lackluster and resembled the locker room of a high school athletics department strapped down by budget constraints. A majority of the motivational message found it‘s way to the player via Felt-tip and colored construction paper. - Not exactly a statement of “You have arrived”.

Coach wasn‘t some brand genius and he isn‘t a design critic. He and the rest of the organization decided it would indeed be wise to create an engaging experience for a player as he walks through the doors of his new NFL home. I remember inserting my hand into Coach‘s bear paw as my team gave our design presentation and he said “I don‘t know too much about this stuff, seems weird that I‘m picking out color schemes during my first week on the job, but I know these guys have worked hard to get here and anything we can do to show them that they are part of a professional sports team will go a long way.” [paraphrasing].

What we did

We ended up doing murals, hall of legend displays, department icons and a wayfinding system throughout the player‘s department. We created departmental brands and associated icons. We didn‘t touch the back offices. This was entirely about the player‘s and fan‘s experience. Creating a journey as they walk the halls of giants.

Flash Forward to the agony of 2009, When new head coach Eric Mangini crushed the hopes, dreams and memories of Trait, Browns players and fans in so many ways. One of his first acts was to tear down our mural of legends met players and visitors as they entered the premises. He replaced it with white paint. Bye Bye Otto Graham, Paul Brown, Jim Brown... You will be missed.


Working with the Browns was truly a lifetime memory in my years in the field. The staff and management were extremely responsive and joy to work with. My team got backdoor access to the inside of our beloved team. I only wish most of our work wasn‘t piled up in some undisclosed landfill. However, I understand that interior graphics can be considered ephemeral and they need to adapt to the current culture. - ’Til next time.