When Mark Judson started this business more than thirty years ago, Houston was still a bit of the wild west.

Back then the entrepreneurial spirit was kicking hard. All the company heads knew all the bankers, who knew all the lawyers. Mark worked his way into this close-knit network, and Judson Design took off. 

Decades later that vibe still holds. Sure, rampant growth and mergers have brought in new companies, leaders and cultures. But Houston is still as entrepreneurial as ever, still willing to take chances. That spirit is how Judson Design has succeeded in helping some of the city’s most visionary companies. Our client relationships have always thrived on this can-do ethos, and the result has been transformative work. Here are a few of our most salient examples.

The Archive

Decades of work translates into boxes of notebooks, sketches and final samples kept in archives that stack 10 feet high and 20 feet wide.

Part 01

Continental Airlines

There was a time when nearly every major corporation produced an annual report. They were beautiful, multi-page books filled with great photography and graphics, impeccably designed and printed on the finest paper. For nearly 20 years, Judson Design produced high-caliber annual reports such as these for Continental Airlines.

Continental, prior to merging with United, was unique. Every employee received the annual report and was encouraged to give feedback about the company. Engaging employees in sincere dialogue was a big part of Continental’s strategy. That meant the annual report had to convey the pulse of the company clearly and beautifully.  The Judson team listened intently and got to work.

“There’s an arrogance to this business where some feel entitled to dictate to the client,” says Mark. “That doesn’t work for us. Our job isn’t to create the company’s vision, but to powerfully convey it. We will never know the company like the people who run it. But what we do know best is how to communicate those messages.”

Part 02

Pier 21

In the late 1800s, Pier 21 was the jewel of the Galveston waterfront, housing the prestigious Mallory Lines steamship company that transported travelers between Galveston, Key West and New York. Its heyday long passed, the pier sat abandoned until the 1980s when The Woodlands Corporation revitalized the property. Judson Design was honored with developing the new identity.

The pier’s redevelopment paid homage to history, hosting the Texas Seaport Museum, the National Historic Landmark tall ship Elissa, and Harbor House boutique hotel. Judson Design also looked to the past for inspiration and developed a modern identity that brought Pier 21 history back to life. “Never ignore tradition,” says Mark. “It’s my personal and the company’s aesthetic. We take traditional elements and reinterpret them in a contemporary fashion.”

The firm developed a distinct identity for each entity in the Pier 21 family. A cohesive environmental package was also designed, including signage for parking, ticket counters and entrances. Pier 21 quickly became one of Galveston’s top tourist destinations, and much like the pier itself, the client’s relationship with Judson Design has stood the test of time. 

Part 03

Hotel Galvez

In 1911 the grandest hotel in all of Texas opened its doors in Galveston. The “Queen of the Gulf” drew the likes of Frank Sinatra, Howard Hughes and presidents Roosevelt and Eisenhower. Rising from the rubble of Galveston’s 1900 hurricane, Hotel Galvez remained a shining beacon to a reborn city for a century. But as the cycle goes, it fell on hard times.

Mitchell Historic Properties acquired the property in 1993 and undertook a $20 million upgrade to restore the hotel to its former grandeur. Mitchell turned to Judson Design to develop the branding, and the firm turned to tradition. These grand waterfront hotels had typically used the building rendering as the brand mark. Judson honored that tradition, but with a more contemporary feel.

The new brand also included vintage-inspired typography that exemplified elegance, complete with recurring patterns that evoke the feel of old-world wallpaper. The new hotel and brand were instantly embraced, and to this day Judson Design continues to provide print collateral, advertising and environmental graphic design services to this extraordinary client. 

Part 04

Reserve on the East River

Outside of Crested Butte is a stretch of river offering some of the most exquisite fly fishing in Colorado. Along its banks sits the Reserve on the East River, a 1,500-acre luxury development encompassing mountainside retreats, a lodge and an equestrian center. Mark Judson, an avid fly fisherman, was ecstatic when his firm was invited to pitch the branding for this new development.

“We used our deep knowledge and love for the sport to pitch the business,” says Mark. “We gave our potential clients beautiful wooden fly boxes containing the proposed branding, along with a book we created on the art of fly fishing, full of stunning photography and illustrations. They loved our passion and hired us.”

Judson Design developed the Reserve’s identity and website, as well as branded clothing, merchandise, and maps. The success of this effort has since opened doors to many other high-profile real estate projects, including Crab Cay in the Bahamas and Boot Ranch in the Texas Hill Country. 

Jack Unruh

Mark Judson holds up an illustration by legendary illustrator Jack Unruh that was commissioned as part of a series for Reserve on the East River.

Part 05

Texas Medical Center

In 2014 the Texas Medical Center launched the TMC Innovation Institute, a sprawling laboratory devoted to blazing new trails in biotech and pharma. To drive its programs, TMC needed to attract top life-science talent to the Institute. Judson was awarded the environmental design and given 45 days to transform what was essentially a 100,000-square-foot empty white box into a space that exuded technological ascendancy.

The deadline was met, and Judson Design’s relationship with TMC was cemented. The team was next tasked with refining the Innovation Institute’s branding, which had been developed by another firm and needed improvement. Ultimately, the studio delivered a new identity, new website and new environment for the Institute in record time.

To this day Judson Design maintains a close relationship with all branches of the Texas Medical Center, functioning much like an in-house firm. TMC is forever charging toward future innovations in medicine, and Judson is there, making sure the branding embodies this spirit.

Looking Forward

The Road Ahead

In the years to come, we will continue to add stories fueled by the same passion and craft that has carried Judson Design's reputation for the last several decades. The mediums through which creative work is delivered will invariably evolve and trends will come and go, but we will unfailingly strive to create work that remains timeless.