Big Changes at Sunriver Nature Center & Observatory



Local residents have called it the best-kept secret in Sunriver. Science teachers say it’s a “little-known gem.” And most Sunriver visitors used to drive right by without taking a second look.

But things are changing dramatically at the Sunriver Nature Center & Oregon Observatory.

A distinctive new brand identity, signs, facility upgrades and an integrated marketing effort from BNBranding are shining new light on this unique non- profit.

Board President Harry Hamilton said all the new branding work is already paying-off.

“The branding fits our criteria and our organization exceptionally well,” Hamilton said. “It’s an elegant graphic solution that plays well in all applications, and it’s having an huge impact on our business. July was a record month for us, by a long shot, and August was our second-busiest month. BNBranding really over-delivered… We couldn’t be happier.”

The non-profit organization actually comprises two distinctly different facilities… the Nature Center and a world-class observatory. So the marketing team, let by Marketing Committee chair Rick Braithwaite, decided two separate identities would be a logical first step.

“It’s one organization with two completely different audiences,” Braithwaite said. “The observatory has a dedicated following of amateur astronomers and science buffs. The Nature Center has a broader appeal, and is more down-to-earth, so to speak. We needed to pull them apart and create a compelling brand for each.”

Braithwaite has considerable experience in that arena. For 17 years he was the managing partner of Sandstrom Design, a world-renown branding firm in Portland.

“I researched the local market and interviewed several branding firms and ad agencies,” Braithwaite said. “BNBranding impressed me with their strategic thinking, and they have a solid portfolio of first-class design work. I’ve been very happy with the choice, and our Board of Directors is very pleased with the work.”

The first job was naming. John Furgurson, owner of BNBranding, worked with Braithwaite to rename the observatory half of the operation. “There are bigger telescopes out there, but as far as hands-on viewing is concerned, this is the single biggest observatory on the west coast. It deserved a bigger name,” Furgurson said. “Something that’s not an after-thought.”

The team decided on “The Oregon Observatory at Sunriver.” Once the name was approved, Furgurson worked with BNBranding’s lead designer, Elissa Davis, on a conceptual framework for the two new brand identities.

“It was an interesting challenge because the two designs needed to have some graphic similarities,” Furgurson said. “The brief was very clear on that point. And there were a lot of board members who were married to the old owl logo.”

Furgurson also believed that family friendliness was also an important consideration. “Sunriver is a family brand. We didn’t want the Observatory logo to get too nerdy or sci-fi. When all’s said and done, the identity needed to work well on a kid’s t-shirt.”

Over the last six months the new logos were applied to advertising, merchandise, uniforms, literature, event banners and most importantly, on-site signage. BNBranding designed all new signs for both facilities, and contracted with Carlson Signs on the production.

“The guys at Carlson Signs did a fantastic job, and really went the extra mile,” Furgurson said. “Now, when you drive by, you can’t miss the place.”

The next challenge for BNBranding is to design and build two new websites. Observatory Manager Bob Grossfeld believes it’s a change that’s way overdue.

“We’ve been locked into a proprietary web platform for years, so it’ll be nice to move to something that’s universally accepted and mobile-friendly. It’s going to save us a bunch of money. Besides, I love the new look, and we really need a website that’s up to speed with that.”

Andrew Bloo, head of technology and web marketing at BNBranding, said the the goal is to reach vacation planners before they get to Sunriver, and then direct them to the facility once they’re here.

“But it’s not just a marketing tool. The new site’s also going to make their operation more efficient, and open up some new revenue opportunities, Bloo said.”

“The work that BNBranding has done so far has definitely had an impact on the business, and that’s just going to get better as we improve our online presence, Braithwaite said. “Andrew’s a great addition to the BNBranding team, and we’re very excited to see what they do in the next month or two.”

You can see the new branding work at

John Furgurson,, 541-815-0075. Rick Braithwaite,, 503-593-6644.


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