Just glancing at his office door, there’s no doubt Chad Martin is a designer. The logo for his newly branded business Weave is emblazoned on its grey frame with the same clean, industrial look that exudes from countless projects he has touched.
His design imprint can be seen throughout the Southeast on iron fences, trendy apartment buildings and countless places logos are found, but these days most of it originates in the newly renovated Thomas building on 2nd Avenue North in downtown Birmingham, just a short drive from his home in Tanglewood in Vestavia Hills.
“What is Weave about?” I ask. Chad hands me a piece of black cardstock letter pressed in an iridescent gold ink. I’m a bit distracted by the sleek design of what I hold in my hand as he explains the concept.
“Typically the architect stays in his lane, the interior designer in their lane, engineers in their lane, landscapers in their lane,” he tells me, pointing to the silo illustration on the top left of the card. But not with his concept. He moves to the next set of illustrations, with strands woven together. The name starts to make perfect sense. “I keep all these professionals tied together so we are making decisions together,” he says.
The visuals don’t end there. Next he motions to what he has sketched on the oversized barn door behind him. “Before I was on an island by myself as a design consultant,” he says. Below the sketch of the island he points to a more complex diagram. Brand Thinking. Design Thinking. Property Branding. These are the concepts that shape each click of his mouse several feet over as he moves lines and text around on his 35-inch computer monitor.
In a practical sense, those terms mean Chad spends a lot more time on conference calls than he did in previous positions. But through it all he gets to impose a major influence on the design of a space, typically a multi-unit residential property for an urban area or college town. “I am a designer first,” he tells me. “I like to create places. Whether it’s the logo or the website or the actual building, I am trying to create an experience.”
Whereas before Chad would often get hired to create a logo at the beginning of a project and maybe stationery and signs at the end of a project, now he starts before any dirt is moved. Step one is talking with the developers about what they want. Step two is creating an inspiration package with images of everything from lighting to furniture to interiors to finishes to colors—altogether envisioning the feel of the space. Then as architects and interior designers submit drafts to the developer, Chad reviews them and they collaborate to fit the original vision, crafting an overall experience for people to interact with a physical space. “Before I was creating art to stick on walls, now I can influence how those rooms are shaped,” he explains.
It all makes more sense as he pulls up a design package, or at least parts of the 20 pages he developed. This one is for an apartment development in Chattanooga. It’s a block and a half from the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel, and Chad had discovered a record company called Bluebird Records had been the first to record Glenn Miller’s song “Chattanooga Choo Choo.” With that, Bluebird Row began to come into being with the blessing of the developers. With it came shades of blue greys and an art deco-meets-industrial feel, first incorporated into a logo, and later onto an airstream leasing trailer, folders with leasing information, golf carts and accents on the exterior of the building itself.
Talk to Chad too much about one of the trendy complexes he designs and you’ll want to move in yourself. For this one, an old trolley on the property will be refurbished into a poolside cabana complete with charging stations. What was originally going to be a theatre area was redesigned into a live-work space with bird cage-style office spaces. A rooftop bar known as The Roost will overlook Lookout Mountain and is adjacent to an area with liquor and wine lockers each resident can access.
When we get to discussing the artist Chad brought in from Austin to create mural above the fireplace in Bluebird Row’s clubhouse area, he also mentions how he redirected an interior designer’s plans for brick fireplace to create an accent wall elsewhere. “So you are like the brand police?” I ask. He doesn’t deny it. He prefers the term brand manager though. The idea is seemingly the same, at least in my book: keeping everyone in tune with the vision down to each color and material choice.
This niche field is one that Chad is seeing take off in California, New York, Washington DC, even in Atlanta, but doesn’t see as much in smaller cities around the Southeast where he works. Still, Birmingham is where he makes his home and his home base for his work. “There’s more creatives here than in Montgomery (where I grew up),” he says. “I feel like Birmingham is on the rise of being the next Austin or Nashville, and the central location helps me get in and out of a lot of these properties too.”
There’s other visual clues in his office that points to a sense of place too. A framed picture shows off his three daughters who attend Pizitz Middle School and Vestavia High School, and near it is a wire sculpture by Birmingham artist Eric Johnson with each daughter’s first initials for Kate, Meg and Holley incorporated in it.
The more we talk to Chad and ask about his local ties, that more that come to mind for him. He initially frequented Bistro V because he liked the food, and then got to know co-owners Jeremy Downey and Emily Tuttle-Shell. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to get their brand perception up to par to match the great food he’s serving.’ He’s got one of the better restaurants if not the best in Vestavia,” Chad admits. Soon after, he and Jeremy ended up chatting about plans to expand the restaurant into what is now their second storefront area to the right of the original space. That led to a glass a wine, which led to a new logo, menu design, entry sign and coasters. To finish the job, Randy Waldrop, who owns Vestavia’s Alliance Sign Group and is friends with Chad, connected the final dots to bring the sign to life.
As it turns out, Chad is also to credit for the Rocky Ridge Social Club hats and T-shirts that debuted at Wing Ding this year, noting that it is “rumored since” the year of the Vestavia Hills’ founding. A group of dads of girls in Indian Princess had been on a wing team for years and came up with the name for themselves. Next up they enlisted Chad for their own branding. There’s a similar story about the new logo for the VHHS Fishing Team in the works, coming soon to a T-shirt near you. Or for all we know, also to a door frame near you.
To learn more about Weave, visit weavebranding.com.