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Polonia Trail

The Polonia Trail connects people to historic sites of significance to the life of the Polish community in Western New York. Their goal is to raise awareness of the presence of Polish-Americans and Polish immigrants in Erie County.

Buffalo, and many other parts of Western New York, were and still are home to a large Polish population. While many of the residents of these areas have moved on, the buildings remain. The Polonia Trail highlights these places of significance and allows people to either physically or digitally visit these historic places and to connect to the heritage of their ancestors. The Trail’s main goal is to tell engaging stories about these historic places, the time period, and to encourage others to share their stories as well.

Here is a terrible photo of me with my absolutely wonderful Great Grandmother

Here is a terrible photo of me with my absolutely wonderful Great Grandmother

I’m so glad to have been a part of this project. This isn’t just another brand and website, it’s something so much more than that. It’s the history of Polish-Americans. It’s my history. My great-grandmother (who is still with us at 103 years-old) lived on Fillmore and Broadway on the East-side of Buffalo for most of her life, my grandparents lived there until the 1960s, and I grew up hearing all about Corpus Christi Church and the Broadway Market. To be a part of a project that shares and protects that history means the world to me, and I’m honored to have been a part of it.

The Logo

Designing this logo was a real challenge. So many Polish organizations simply use the crowned eagle from the coat of arms of Poland. Had we gone that route, it would have been nearly impossible to truly stand out with a logo incorporating it. That wasn’t going to cut it.

Above all, we wanted to design an iconic logo that would really stand out in people’s minds. We needed the brand to convey so many different and complex ideas such as Polonia, community, trails, Western New York, and the history of the sites that it became clear that no logo could convey all of these ideas and remain simplistic and iconic. The goal is that this mark will come to be associated with sites of historical significance to the Polish community in the Western New York area.

I explored a wide variety of concepts at the start of this project. At first, it seemed as though a historically inspired wordmark or monogram would be a good fit for an organization who focuses on historical sites. But, the Polonia Trail isn’t focused on just one period of time, they focus on the entire history of these landmarks, so there is no “period appropriate” style to use as inspiration. What really makes the trail special is that it is also a virtual tour of these sites. It became clear that was needed wasn’t a mark focused only on the past, but on the present and the Polish people as a whole.

PHT-sketches2

What came out was something modern and unique that spoke to both Polish heritage and the trail itself. The eagle itself is made up of several intersecting trails that also mimic the shape of a map marker. The typeface is bold with thin serifs to contrast with the heavy icon. The type also has a historic quality to it without being over the top or distracting. The colors are the traditional Polish red and gold, but in a muted, art-deco palette that connects it more strongly to Buffalo and the Western New York area.

polonia-1

Polonia-LogoBuild Website

The Polonia Trail website is the crux of the whole project. After all, what makes The Polonia Trail so special is the digital aspect of the tour. We wanted to carry the cleanliness and simplicity of the brand to the website design. The information and the imagery are the stars of the site, so we avoided using any unnecessary embellishments that would detract from them.

The website has historical information, images, maps, and more for each of the 50 sites on the trail. Visitors can “tour the trail” either in person, or from the comfort of their homes through the site itself.

I can’t give enough credit to the historians who gathered the information for all 50 locations. Even the most well-designed websites fall completely flat due to a lack of content and imagery, but this website sure doesn’t have that problem. So many great pictures, new and old, are available for every location and they bring the past to life in a way that words alone cannot.

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