Passionate about creative placemaking and community engagement, Emily Isenberg leads Boston-based Isenberg Projects, a creative strategy and experimental marketing agency that works with real estate developers, municipalities, cities, and institutions, including such notable names as Jamestown Properties, Harvard University, and Kanye West. Isenberg’s talk outlined how to capture people’s attention by pushing boundaries and redefining expectations.
The Power of Pop-Ups
To redevelop Boston’s Fenway Park neighborhood as the Fenway, Isenberg took over a vacant retail space. After spending $1,500 on paint, 28 different pop-ups unfolded in a little more than 30 days, creating a micro-community of sorts. Another example is the Boston Pickle Fair. Launched to draw attention to the Innovation and Design Building in the Seaport, 4,000 attendees showed up and became the foundation of the property’s identity. “Precise execution and nontraditional approaches are a big part of creating memorable experiences,” she says.
Harnessing the Creative Economy
Boston’s Lower Allston is home to both the Harvard Business School and a large number of artists, so when Isenberg Projects was asked to prime the neighborhood for the school’s campus extension, the agency gained the trust of local artists by crafting a giant grocery store space inspired by Claes Oldenburg, who opened an experimental store in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1961. Here, some 150 artists brought in whatever works they wanted to sell. Extending that local narrative is the more recent Studio Allston Hotel, a boutique property by local firm Dyer Brown. It features works by more than 20 artists, complete with a gallery space that underscores how “partnerships are crucial to leveraging a broader audience,” she says.
Social Media Isn’t Mandatory
Autodesk’s Design Night events are now hosted around the world, and Isenberg Projects was responsible for the prototype. Though it didn’t yield much social media engagement, it garnered repeat attendance and proved that “if we can make something that feels memorable, then maybe the phones will die,” she says. “How do we preserve the core of what makes our city interesting instead of having everything feel like it’s slicked down in the same way?”