City of Wisconsin Dells
Eclectic, vibrant, and surrounded by stunning landforms, this city of 5,500 citizens hosts four million visitors annually. Always reinventing itself, the city again sought to polish its image for guests.
The effort to turn a vision of revitalization into reality included generationally rooted Wisconsin Dells citizens, a dedicated City Council, and an enthusiastic Mayor. ZEBRADOG was retained to uncover the authentic Dells and revive the downtown as an all-season main street destination.
Eclectic, vibrant, and surrounded by stunning landforms, this city of 5,500 citizens hosts four million visitors annually. Always reinventing itself, the city again sought to polish its image for guests. The story of the Wisconsin Dells’ rugged lumber raftsmen and riverboat pilots is retold, alongside the stories of today’s photographers, artisans, and culinary creatives.
ZEBRADOG began unpacking the Dells’ many assets—dusting off stories of this evocative landscape which has drawn out poetic reveries from every generation privileged to have encountered it. These stories blend to establish an original brand that reintroduces the Wisconsin River and its scenic delights to an entertainment district made vibrant with colorful banners and mosaics. Every element of placemaking, from serpentine outdoor café zones to a refreshed wayfinding sign program and digital app, references the River Arts story.
THE DELLS ARE REBORN AS THE DELLS RIVER ARTS DISTRICT, A TRULY ORIGINAL PLACE.
Areas of Impact
Welcome Back to the River
For too many years, Downtown Dells was missing a connection to its most important asset—the Wisconsin River. The river and its tree-lined sandstone bluffs are the original Wisconsin Dells attraction. The new Riverwalk invites Dells visitors down to the water’s edge along a meandering wooded path. Nested into natural vignettes along the way, interpretive exhibits tell the key stories of the Dells with hand-colored photography built into elegantly crafted columns. No detail was too small, each vignette features art and materials from the stories themselves.
A Wealth of Inspiration
A material and pattern language draws from what is unique to this center of summertime vacation memories. Infused with oblique oxidized steel trusses of the 150-year-old Kilbourn Bridge, the timbers that once floated through the infamous Narrows, and the personalities of sandstone formations carved over the course of 15,000 years by the magnificent Wisconsin River, ZEBRADOG had plenty of environmental and emotional inspiration to craft a revitalized story.
Inventive Brand Positioning
Legendary sandstone formations crowned by majestic pines are reflected in the Wisconsin River. Above it all, trains still rattle across the Kilbourn Bridge, marking the gateway to the Dells River Arts District. ZEBRADOG artfully captured the essence of these icons within a brandmark drawn with an artisanal style that is reverent to the past, while providing a foundation for the future development of an arts district.
The Delicate Art of Placemaking
Shopping, competing at skill games, touring museums, and dressing up for old-time photos take a lot of energy. Café zones provide a quiet and comfortable place to take a break and recharge. Experience the story of the Wisconsin River that flows through a mosaic course embedded in the stone walls protecting these spaces. The keystone of each Café Zone is a prime space designated for an artistic interpretation of “seating.” The excitement of this street scene is enhanced with intuitive wayfinding, pops of public art, and vibrantly colored banners.
Visitors can’t wait to get out of the car to join in the fun. That’s why ZEBRADOG put so much care into designing a future program, with easy-to-follow signed pathways to and from parking lots branded with rock formations. The main thoroughfare Broadway will be a breeze to navigate with block colors defined by banners, digital information kiosks, and a custom digital app.
Digital Wayfinding App
Armed with a smartphone and intuitive ZEBRADOG-designed and -developed wayfinding app, future visitors will easily unlock reviews, promotions, calendars, and turn-by-turn directions to a refreshing drink at their favorite shaded sidewalk café. While relaxing and taking in the colors of the street, why not browse for tickets on a riverboat tour or study up on Dells’ history?