NOTE: ISA is keenly interested in all things strategy, which includes creative concepts and communication. Here, our creative partner Robert Rytter outlines how - and how not - to create a graphic identity that lasts.
"I was thinking we needed something more like the Nike logo."
"Can we see that design in periwinkle blue? That's my favorite color."
"My wife says this design looks too European for an American school."
These are actual comments made during the presentations of new logos for schools to steering committees. Even though we have a tried and tested process to keep our clients focused on the established design criteria and the audience to whom we are targeting our efforts – we still occassionally need to reel some back and simply say " Now let's review the design criteria and please remember our target audience is not your wife."
A visual identity project is a challenge for design firm and institution, but it can be a wonderful exercise, revealing much about the school's history and culture - and setting the stage for the next phase of an institution's life. As Will Rogers once said, "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." And these visual identities are the very first impression a prospect experiences – in all media.
So here are a couple of the steps we take to avoid finding ourselves selecting a necktie for someone in the Board room instead of creating a meaningful and lasting icon to represent the school:
1) Determine any established equity you may have in the current system. These are those components which cannot be changed - such as school colors, the original school seal, the mascot.
2) Define and prioritize the primary image attributes of your school. (strong, traditional, progressive, nurturing, rigorous…whatever they may be )
Note: Number two needs to be hammered out in a closed room by key stakeholders who need to absolutely agree on the attributes and their order of priority, as this becomes the design criteria.
3) Review design candidates in full view of the design criteria. How well does each of the proposed designs communicate the image attributes you have established? Test the final candidates with students, parents, alumni. See the final design candidates in applications such as the website, stationery, print collateral, apparel and signage. Select and refine the design that most accurately communicates those image attributes and you will have a fine signature for your school.
Then put the new design on neckties in the school colors!
Here is a sample for at some of the most memorable of marks of ISA clients designed by Robert Rytter.