Frontier Drive-Inn Steelmaster shed guest room with a drive-in movie screen in the background

The Latest

From Concept to Acclaim: EBD’s 2023 Award Showcase

2023 was another year of remarkable creativity at Ellen Bruss Design. We’re celebrating sixteen awards from competitions held across the nation. As always, thank you to our incredible clients who trusted us to create and grow their brands.

Creating Outstanding Brand Names

Naming places, products and companies can be challenging. EBD helps to make the process fun and rewarding through extensive research, strategy and creativity. Which results in unique, memorable names that help you stand out in the marketplace.

Creating A Collaborative Culture

Creating the ideal office environment is something we have worked hard to achieve and maintain. For any business, a positive and collaborative office culture is essential. Here are a few tips and practices that we continue to integrate into our workplace.

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June 9, 2023

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4 min read

The Frontier Drive-Inn: A Place Branding Project

Welcome to the Frontier, a project that encompasses both the visual and physical articulation of a brand – placemaking. Read more on how we turned a run-down drive-in into a vibrant experiment showcasing art, architecture and hospitality.

The Frontier is a drive-in that opened in 1955 in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, near the Great Sand Dunes. It operated for over 30 years and served people from all over the valley but was closed for about the same amount of time before it was given a second chance.

Frontier Drive-In neon sign from the 1950s advertising the property for sale

Bringing History Back To Life

In 2016, a friend saw The Frontier for sale while scouting a location for a film. Knowing Ellen Bruss and her husband’s passion for the arts, he suggested that they buy it and turn it into a cultural space. They, along with their kids, knew the concept was a unique opportunity and purchased the property. Since they’ve purchased the property, they restored the neon sign and original 40′ screen, added a lawn for movie viewing under the stars, outfitted the Frontier with state-of-the-art film screening equipment and luxurious overnight accommodations.

EBD took great care in renovating the original neon sign. It needed extensive cleaning, from both age and the birds who had made homes inside of it. The neon lettering was mostly broken and was recreated to honor its original history. Great lengths were taken to restore it to its original glory by keeping the neon colors as authentic as possible while preserving 65 years of patina.

Frontier Drive-Inn neon sign in Morry's Neon shop getting restored
Click the image to hear from the sign vendor about their passion for restoring historic signs and see their work on the Frontier.
Old broken neon lettering from the Frontier Drive-In before EBD restored it
The new neon letters were made by hand, filled with a gas and electrodes were added. When the gas is electrified, a custom lighting color is created.
Frontier Drive-Inn new neon sign after the restoration lit up reading in movies we trust with the San Luis Valley night sky in the background
The final sign after extensive renovations.

Movies, Memories and More

As the sign restoration was in progress, a powerhouse team of creatives set out to bring the vision for Frontier to life. T38 Studio, a leading firm in sustainable architecture and contemporary design, created a vision for the site. Ron Rael, a design activist and leader in earthen architecture began experimenting with clay, straw and soil from the site to create the Skylos – 3D printed adobe structures for night sky viewing. We at EBD set out to build a brand that encompasses the history of the site alongside its bright future. 

Frontier Drive-Inn Steelmaster sheds' exterior side-by-side at night with the porch lights on

Branding A Reimagined Drive-Inn Experience

EBD was intent on both honoring the valley’s farming and ranching tradition while showcasing the movie and modern architecture components, so a ‘ranch meets movie’ brand was born. We channeled the dark night skies in the use of black, the earth tones of the land with a wheat color, and the neon of the sign in a palette that included bright colors. A star submark was created to represent the movie component. 

Frontier Drive-Inn business card with the neon logo and in movies we trust on a black background
Frontier Drive-Inn website mockup of the home page with an image of the neon sign on a laptop with a red background
Frontier Drive-Inn black and white business cards lined up against an orange background
Red and black Frontier Drive-Inn notebooks stacked against a black background and a neon Frontier star logo in the top right corner

The interiors were the final step. At Ellen Bruss Design, we are passionate about interior finishes and their ability to create a cohesive brand experience. We selected the Pendleton blankets, one-of-a-kind rugs, pops of color in pillows and all of the furniture to continue the brand across the yurts and steelmaster sheds. Each room is unique, providing a boutique experience for guests.

Frontier Drive-Inn yurt room interior close up on bedding chosen and styled by EBD
Frontier Drive-Inn's unique yurt guest room with interiors by EBD

Digital marketing campaigns launched early this year and include SEO, geotargeting ads, PR, email campaign, social media and a new website. Bookings have seen an immediate increase as a result of the marketing activity.

Frontier Drive-Inn social media mockup of a reel on Frontier's Instagram account on a smartphone  next to a social media ad all against a red background

Grab Your Friends And Plan A Trip

The Frontier Drive-Inn is now open for bookings year-round, with availability filling up quickly. Experience a true dark sky get-away and watch stars under the stars. You won’t regret it.  

Work With Us

We would love to get to know you and help you with placemaking. Reach out to us at heyhowareya@ebd.com so we can help you tell your story.