Design Brief

Portage Trail Outfitters is a family owned outfitting service on the edge of Minnesota’s Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). This wilderness is comprised of over 1 million acres of pristine land following the trails (portages) of ancient native fur trade routes. Portage Trail Outfitters offers outfitting services as well as cabin rentals to help prepare clients for enjoying the adventure of heading into the wilderness.

Design Challenge

To create a brand identity package inclusive of various collateral materials that reflect the values of Portage Trail Outfitters and their position in the marketplace.

Target Market


Youth group and scout group leaders who make the purchasing decisions on group wilderness adventures on behalf of members. These leaders vary in age but are primarily between 22 and 30. While leaning more male in gender, an increasing number of female leaders have also been booking wilderness adventure for their groups. These groups tend to rent a lot of gear since the youth don’t own much of their own. These group leaders head to wilderness to help share a love for the outdoors and foster an appreciation for the natural beauty around us all.


Adult group trips are common at Portage Trail Outfitters. This market too leans male in gender, but has seen increasing interest amongst the female market. Age range for these groups is 25-45. Unlike the group leaders in the primary market, this secondary market segment owns much of their own gear. They generally rent the gear that is hard to travel with such as canoes and fishing rods. They also tend to stay the cabins rentals for longer periods of time as a way to disconnect from the hustle-and-bustle of modern society.

Emotions associated with this client


Clients of an outfitting company are heading out into the great unknown. The trips are often driven by a love of the great outdoors and a desire to experience it without modern convenience and distraction.


The BWCAW is largely primitive with no motors allowed and little-to-no cell phone signals. Gear has to be in very good working order and be of a quality that can stand up to the rigor of extended use. The risk is part of the allure though mitigating it is a top priority, especially when a group leader is responsible for the youth in their care.


The reason why people utilize outfitting services is the convenience they provide. Having a place to stay and a place to pick up and drop off gear lets clients daydream about the adventure on the horizon, and not worry about forgetting the flashlight.


Duane’s Canoe Outfitters

Offers similar services to a similar target market and seems to have a positive position in the marketplace. Their physical location is not as convenient as Portage Trails to the BWCAW.

North Country Canoe Outfitters

Also offers similar services to a similar target market. They have an established brand (In business over 30 years) and also offer trips into Canada.

Design Goals

The project objective is to brand Portage Trail Outfitters and get them exposure to potential clients who might not otherwise be aware of their services and unique location on the edge of the BWCAW. Enticing larger groups of visitors with the offer of convenience and personal care, Portage Trail Outfitters will position itself as a part of client’s wilderness experience, not just a place to stay before they go.

Market Research

Three step approach

  1. Positive Millenial Brand Recognition.
    The target market is the 20-30 year old group leaders who will make the puchasing decisions for their groups. It’s no surprise that social media and content consumption sites were heavily favored, but it was interesting how well they view (and embrace) the sharing economy with companies such as Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb. Portage Trail’s business model of renting gear and sharing the costs could resonate well with this market.
  2. Competitor Analysis.
    While many of the competitors do target groups, their visual branding suggests complicated; the opposite of the Portage Trail experience. The amount of text, circular designs and crammed, detailed graphics in existing brands all look to be opportunity for Portage Trail Outfitters to differentiate itsself in the marketplace.
  3. Adventure Product Brand Review.
    Like many of the most popular brands with the target market, many of the leading outdoor brands used clean color schemes and negative space to their advantage.

Mood Board


The logotype options explored were different handwriting fonts. They communicates a more natural, hands-on feel that any visitor to Portage Trail Outfitters will experience. Script fonts were avoided so the text could be read at multiple sizes and contrast amounts. Heavy script fonts and those that were trendy were avoided as the brand developed during this campaign is meant to be timeless

The headline and body copy fonts were chosen to withstand the test of time and for great readability. The Helvetica Neue font-family is envisioned to be the headline font in print advertising and the body copy for the digital experience. Conversely, Gloria Hallelujah as a healine font for digital use will compliment helvetica as a body font.


The primary color pallete was developed to support the experience of visitors to Portage Trail and their adventure into the Boundary Waters. A softer tone of colors was chosen to paralell the outdoor experience. The teal green represents, protection, freshness, healing and earthiness. The purple colors to represent sprituality and ambition, while the yellow reflects energy, happiness and joy. In addition, these colors are unique to any competitors and will offer an opportinity to stand out in the market. The secondary set of colors will be used to add contrast and support in additional design elements.


Royal Fiber paper will be used to be an extension of the natural environement. The target market is brand sensitive to comapnies who are sustainable so all paper will be 100% post-consumer waste. Portage Trail will also strive to be carbon neutral and start a tree planting program as part of the brand relaunch.

Additional Material

The additional style references point to a direction in which the Portage Trail brand will be developed. A balance between nostalgia and adventure, Portage Trail will offer the best of both worlds. Iconography will use a hand-drawn feel to tie into the headline font, while imagery used will take advantage of natural light as well as some more modern duotone and instagram-like effects to tie to the media being consumer by the target market. The textures will add an organic look to the feel of the marketing materials and the experience references show what the adventure may include. Primarily social expeditions, imagery will showcase interactions between people and nature, and the enjoyment gained.

Logo Roughs

Logo Refinements

Logo 1: Fire

The first logo variation is a symbol and is centered around one of the most important things while camping; fire. The colors give a warmth while being eye catching compared to the competition. The hand written font is used in a way that is playful and energetic offering balance with the design while maintaining readability. The design is easily adaptable to many different use case as demonstrated and will offer a lot of flexibility.

Logo 2: The Journey

Simple triangle shapes represent trees with a little extra space between two on the left. This space represents an opening to the journey figuratively, and the path with which someone must travel (portage) to get between lakes literally. A small sun shape represents the natural beauty at dawn and dusk and makes the other symbolism just a bit more apparent. This font, while a bit more edgy is also readable at various sizes and emphasizes the remoteness and wilderness aspect of the journey.

Logo 3: Life

The crown jewel of any trip into the boundary waters is seeing some of the native moose. This combination logo combines the head of the moose with the "t" in portage tying the two elements together. The green and brown were chosen to also represent trees and life in the boundary waters. The long face of the mosse doubles as the trunk of a tree while the horns represent the branches and foliage. A commbination of thick and thin font holds balance with the otherwise overpowering symbol.

Logo 4: Direction

A symbol and lettermark combination, this logo combines the letters PTO inside of a sharp shape of a tree. The "T" acts as the trunk while using negative space to pring out the other letters. In addition, the triangle represents the needle of a compass, point up to head to the northwoods. The reverses shape to complete the "P" repeats the triangle shape, and again points noth. With a clean and simple logo, the type also needed to follow suit; A more modern feel begged for the sans-serif font. Colors were of course chosen to mimic the trees and the full color rendition used a gradient to add depth and interest.

Final Logo Design

The Journey

Advertising Research


Competitor advertising focuses on imagery of the outdoors, not a surprise given the industry serves adventure into the wilderness. It’s the allure of the wilderness that is driving many to visit this pristine area of the world.

After review of the competitor advertisements, there are a couple areas to capitalize on. First is modernization. Current advertisements feel dated, and not in a nostalgic way. The combination of too many fonts and too much content takes away from the professional image. There is also an overall lack of readability and contrast. The advertisements are quite busy and it’s hard to focus on the message; peace and quiet in the great outdoors.

Adventure Brands

The adventure brands offer a much more modern feel while utilizing the same outdoor imagery as the competitors. Large type, great contrast, and a balance of imagery and content work well together. The canoe advertisement was kept as a reminder of the history of the BWCAW, the area served, as there may be opportunity to capitalize on nostalgia.

The target market has caused some surge in nostalgia marketing with brands such as Miller Lite. Also grass roots social media campaigns such as #ThrowbackThursday emphasize interest in the past. This could prove a risky angle without Portage Trail Outfitters having an established and well-known brand, but something to consider.

Target Audience

The target audience is young adult millennials and the selection of advertisements show a few things. First, the use of genuine, authentic imagery. Imagery to make you feel part of the experience, not just a snapshot of it. While stock photography will probably be used, styling it in a more candid way will speak to the market. In addition, like the adventure brands, fewer words say more to the market. Capitalizing on FOMO (Fear of Missing out), these brands emphasize fun, community, and freedom while using creative play on words. The type is mainly sans-serif and the coloring contrasts well with the busy backgrounds. Styling the images also helps to maintain the contrast necessary for readability.

Advertising Roughs

Copy-Driven Campaign: The Experience

This campaign capitilizes on the use of text to sell the message of experience. Up north, many of the outfitters sell a lot of the same product. What they don't sell is challenge, freedom, and experience.

While Portage Trail does not specifically sell these services either, this campaign is geared to touch a viewer on a more visceral and emotional level. The outdoor imagery, stlyed to appear at dusk, also displays an energy through targeted lighting effects reminicent of the northern lights. Large, readable type with ample contrast sells the text-based message, challenging the viewer to take themselves to the next level in adveture. The one provided by Portage Trail Outfitters.

Image-Driven Campaign: #Hashtag

Simple and straightforward, this campaign lets pictures speak 1,000 words. Again centered around experience, the hashtag text subtly paralells the technology the target market is used to using with the same experience in the greatoutdoors while emphasizing a very recognizable piece of daily life for a lot of the target market.

With an overall emphasis on the community experience of the trip, one can picture themselves taking part. The ad targeting #naturesPlaylist is a nod to all of those in the market who love to be social, but also love a little downtime. What better way than to fire up your personal playlist, none of which are more solitary than the one provided by the rich experience of the Boundary Waters.

Synergy Campaign: Two Words

This two word campaign is featuring the services provided by Portage Trail Outfitters. Using creative play on words, this campaign has a little fun recognizing than not everybody is an outdoor expert. That's ok, though, as Portage Trail offers the services to help make you one.

Answering the question, "What's in it for me?" Portage Trail positions itsself as an expert in guiding, and culmulatively through the ads, gives confidence in there ability to serve the customer in different ways. Separating the image from text allows a great amount of flexibility in type size without taking away too much from the imagery, which is very important. Colors of the boxes behing the text were sampled directly from the images, as well as lighting and saturation styles added to the images to make them feel realted and part of the same campaign.

Final Advertisements

Ad 1: Wilderness

This copy-driven ad seeks to differentiate the viewer from their current state-of-mind and everyday life. Portage Trail Oufitters doesn’t sell product, it sells an experience. Highlighting the definition of wilderness, the message of the ad is meant to touch the viewer in a more visceral and emotional way. The outdoor imagery, is styled to appear at dusk and also displays an energy through targeted lighting effects reminiscent of the northern lights. The dark color offers opportunity for nice contrast and readability of the text, which is style with a font consistent with other branding efforts. The red was chosen to emphasize action, warmth, life, and challenge. Being a color often associated with danger, the final line accentuates the feeling and challenges the viewer to take themselves to the next level in adventure through a creative play on words. It emphasizes the chance to not only enjoy being in the wilderness, but to be part of it.

Ad 2: #NaturesPlaylist

The brand theme centers around experience so a quiet, peaceful evening image was chosen to represent one of the draws of the boundary waters. Lighting was adjusted to help calm the colors and offer a more natural lighting and styled to help aid in consistency with other ads. The horizon was also placed on a rule of thirds gridline to make a more interesting design while the logo was integrated in a more organic way.

Utilizing the moon poking through at dusk as the sun sets, this signifier, though subtle, draws the eye of the user and offers an overall cohesion to the design. The hashtag text campaign was used to attract the target market and offer a contrast to the playlist of their everyday life.

When up north, natures playlist is on a continuous loop one wakes up and falls asleep to each and every day.

Ad 3: RideShare

This synergy-driven advertisement takes a different spin and is targeting the value-ad that Portage Trail Outfitters can add to any outdoor experience. Price conscious and embracing the concept of the sharing economy, the target market is targeted through the creative play on words of “Ride Share.” In everyday life, this will usually mean an Uber or Lyft ride, but up north, it means a canoe.

The main copy also targets the potential expense of vacations, but sharing some outfitting costs through Portage Trail will make the trip more affordable. The design, built on top of a 1/3 grid, tries to emphasize the removal of barriers up north and the ability to choose your own path. The text on the right balances with the large image of the canoe on the left and a faded light source connects them together. The saturation of the images was dropped and for brand cohesion, as special lighting effects were added. The white box represents an old time photograph or postcard well as the constraints of a normal day. The layered canoe images emphasize breaking through those constraints and forging your own path while adding interest to the design through depth. The logo is held in place through an orange box, to offer both color repetition and to make the web address stand out as a call-to-action.

Collateral Research


The collatoral materials produced by competitors were primarily customizations that included their brand. While some had a catalog about their products, most of the outfitters sell other campany products or rent them out. A possible way to be unique is to offer ways to customize gear to represent the company and to help the word-of-mouth marketing efforts. This should work well with customers when they have a great experience; stick with what works.

There is opportunity to modernize the catalog experience as well, possibly making it feel like a magazine experience instead of simply a catalog of product. Making a special product recognizing and thanking the scout/group leader would be a nice value add to delighting and retaining a customer. It's easier to retain a customer than to recruit a new one, so anything Portage Trail can do in that regard the better.


Collatoral in the adventure market is certainly more refined than in examples in the competitor analysis. Again, duplicating the experience in the outdoors helping to place people there through beautiful, clean magery. Both examples include people in the imagery helping viewers to visualize themselves in the same experience. The Northface example takes it a step further and their tradeshow booth brings the outdoor experience to the viewer, showering them with cold blasts of air. If Portage trail ever decided to take part in trade shows, they could take inspiration from this example, recreating the experience of the northwoods.


Examples of collatoral dedicated to the target audience offer clean an modern design. The business cards for nike are minimal while the magazine spread is image focused and at the same time taking the approach of an infographic. This is something portage trail could do to help teach about the Boundary Waters and how they can serve prospective visitors. The apple trade show booth plays off the love of music and repeats the earbud shape as the pedastal to the iphone. Lastly coca-cola does a wonderful job using a magazine to create a smart phone amplifier. Outdoor enthusiasts are often coming up with "camp hacks" so creative plays off of the ingenuity of customers, Portage Trail Outfitters could be more memorable than their competition.

Collateral Rough Designs

Collateral Design 1: "Scout" Patch

As part of the word-of-mouth advertising that this family business thrives on, a series of patches were developed to help meet the core market where they are (groups) as well as to offer a little bit of a takeway that will help cement the Portage Trail Experience into the memories of their northwoods adventure.

One patch is meant to give props to the group leader who is, the intended target market. It Recognizes their hard work and effort in organizing the trip, but also of their volunteer work with the youth. Another patch is intended as a giveaway for all the other group members taking part in the adventure. A small token of achievement, mimicking the patch system of many scout organizations as well as gamifying the experience with that market giving them a "badge". It is, of course, the hope that these youth will return to Portage Trail Outfitter when it is their turn to lead a trip.

Collateral Design 2: Magazine Cover

Without exclusive product, Portage Trail thrives on delivering a seamless experience. What better way to highlight that experience but to deliver a catalog via a magazine. Collecting the stories and photos of past clients, Portage Trail will use testimonials to their advantage while differentiating themselves from the rest of the market whose catalogs are product heavy and very traditional. A couple catalog covers were explored as well as different content to highlight.

Collateral Design 3: Signage

When arriving at Portage Trail Outfitters, clients should feel welcomed and know where they are at. To that end, different signage options were explored. The first being more energetic utilizing brand colors. While it may give off a bit of a "pub" vibe, it is more friendly and approachable while being something that will certainly stand out in the otherwise darkness of night in the northwoods.

The second sign is much more modern and slick tying nicely in with the target market other brand affiliations. While not offering the same energy and contrast, it feels more dependable and solid as a company; even to the side of corporate. Paired with some backlighting of the brand colors, there could be a balance struck between the two.

Final Collatoral Designs


Recognizing the achievments of both group leaders and trip participants, these badges offer a way to take home a part of the nothwoods experience. Many fond memories are created during each trip and having this award will help to remind young visitors that when it is their opportuity to lead a trip, that Portage Trail Outfitters will be there to help plan their adventure.

Guest Photo Journal

A magazine-like experience, the Photo journal is a colletion of stories and photos captured by patron of Portage Trail. Used a a marketing piece and also as a thank you to all content submitters this promo capitalizes onthe social aspect and content creation aspirations of the target market. In addition, the company is running a social media campaign for free canoe rentals and any instagram submissions with the #PortageTrail will be curated and utilized. In addition to user stories and photos, advice and trip planning guidance from the professionals at Portage Trail will also be tastefully integrated.

Neon Signage

Giving a "down home feel" and some nice colorful energy, this sign pops agains the often dark and secluded backdrop of Portage Trail Outfitters. A memorable piece of arriving for the Portage Trail experience, this sign and photo can be used in many other marketing and brand-building uses (such as the photo journal pictured). In addition, we have had clients ask where they could get one for their basement and garage so we could potentially offer replica giveaways.

Website Research


While there are a few good examples, most competitor sites are sorely outdated and crammed with too much information. Some even lack a mobile presence, which is especially import when 70% of internet traffic is generated via mobile.

The reviewed websites are an extention of other advertisements instead of being reimagined for for a digital medium. A lack of a call to action, small type, bad alignement, and slow loading pages are common themes experienced. At one time, these sites were cutting edge, but they have fallen behind. This is evident in the lack of updates and the dated material showing neglect.


The adventure genre is doing a good job keeping up with modern standards. Most were mobile friendly, and like the advertisements, used imagery and contrast to their advantage. An image slider seemed to be a theme as well as fast loading pages and a nice use of white space. The sites were not crammed with information, and if there was a lot, they used nice line length and many heading to make the text more scannable.


Brands strong with the target audience minimize the amount of clickable options on the home pages. They are all, unsurprisingly, mobile friendly and like the adventure brands, use large imagery to their advantage. This set of sites often utilized a distinct call-to-action; either ghost buttons or distinct color. They also captialize on challeging the viewer and using creative plays on words. Vibrant color, active style, and the use of many web conventions minimize the amount of learning a user has to do to use the sites. They go out of there way to sell an exprience, not just the product. Something Portage Trail Outfitters has to do.

Mobile App Concept

Boundary Waters Explorer

A unique offering from a company in the northwoods, the target market really likes their apps. Recognizing that not everyone who visits is an expert in the outdoors, the app will help to teach and identify different aspects of the wilderness journey.

This app will push the limits of current phone technology utilizing Augmented Reality and object recognition to enhance the outdoor experience for the tech saavy users who yearn for adventure.

Without cell reception, this app will function fully from the device even when not connected to the internet. It will highlight 3 areas of interest; animals (tracks, skat, pictures) vegetation (pictures, benefits, warnings) and lakes (topography, fish species, areas of interest).

A separate entitiy that can be purchased by any visitor, the splash screen is sure to emphasize who the app was made by with the use of identical imagery to other branded materials as well as the placement of the logo.

Website Thumbnail Sketches

Website Wireframe Prototypes

Website Design Roughs

These designs explore different layouts organized, but organic, and layered. While they are unique in these regards, each uses color and imagery consistent with brands in the target market genre as well as capitalizing on competitors lack of modernization.

Call to actions are clear and consistent while messaging is short and sweet. The links of outfit, lodge, and explore speak to the main business goals of the site. the explore link is a catch all for all of the support materials and information offered if someone wants to learn more about the area or Portage Trail Outfitters.

Each design has a "super footer" that contains many of the "explore" links as well as a secondary option of the main navigation. Both the desktop and mobile experiences have been developed since 70% of internet traffic come from mobile devices today. In addition, the Portage Trail target market is largely online via mobile devices and will most likely be the source of site traffic.

Analytics will be embedded in each page to track usage and make design tweaks as needed during future iterations. Buttons are designed to be a clickable size with a thumb and to look like a button that is clickable tohelp aid in learnability and memorability. Each page will be consistent with the homepage in look and feel to also aid in the confort of use while browsing. Lastly, significant resserch will be done to keyword research to help aid in search engine rankings as well as to help make the site more accessible to screenreaders (alt text, page names, descriptions, color contrast, text size cusomizations, etc.)

Final Website Design

The Final Website design combines aspects of all three design comps. Images are styled with similar lighting and intentionality as other Portage Trail branded materials. The site feels modern taking cues from material design best practices, while keeping unique with the use of subtle brand-color gradients. Built on a 1,000px grid, the site keeps the call to actions consistently colored and obviously clickable. The homepage also avoids too much happy talk and gets straight to the point answering the question "what's in it for me."

Final Website Build

Experience the live site here!