Monthly Archives: March 2015

Higher Five

Cover of the Five Colleges Yearbook (annual report)Ok, this isn’t really about how to high five because everyone knows how to do that correctly, right? What I do want to tell you about is how we worked with Five College Consortium (FCC) to create a stronger brand for them.

Five College Consortium is the hub of the five colleges in the Amherst area of Western Massachusetts: Smith, Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke and UMASS Amherst. FCC works as a connector of services, conduit for course/faculty sharing and facilitator of shared opportunities (shows, presentations, etc.). Being the center of these five amazing schools is wonderful but makes it easy to get lost in the shuffle and allows for a number of accidental brands to spring up. They brought us in to pull all of their components under an integrated brand visually and to set up guidelines for how to maintain that brand going forward.

With programs that are as diverse as Native American and Indigenous Studies, World Language Studies, and Queer and Sexuality Studies, the challenge was honoring that diversity while also making it clear that everything was part of the same family. We started by interviewing different stakeholders including department heads, faculty, administrators, and staff to get a sense of how they’re perceptions and needs differed as well as how they were similar. This worked well for them, especially in the sometimes politically-charged environment of academics and finite resources.

We took what we learned to build a style guide for their brand that would allow for baseline brand consistency. This included which logo to use, where to place it on materials, how to display the five-school names, a universal color palette, branded fonts, and header protocols. We then took those guidelines and used them ourselves to develop different materials across a number of individual programs and for the organization itself.

From our work, FCC has gotten kudos and recognition across the five colleges it serves about the branding consistency and updated look. But, even more importantly, such a rebranding creates an energy and ownership of a school’s experience just as it does for a nonprofit, business or agency. Take a look at a couple of examples on our Work Page.

Potash Still

Cover of Fall '14 Potash HillPotash Hill is the name of the hill upon which stands tiny, quirky, wonderful Marlboro College. To honor this fact, Marlboro’s alumni magazine is appropriately called (wait for it…) Potash Hill.

This is a great alumni magazine that has stayed true to the Clear Writing requirement that is the center of the school’s academic tradition. Marlboro students are expected to write at an exceptional level and, to ensure this, they must submit samples of their writing in their sophomore year to be read by a panel. If the panel rejects a student’s submission, they have an opportunity to resubmit but after enough attempts, the student may not be invited to remain at Marlboro. Harsh? Maybe. Intentional? Absolutely. With all of this writing focus, it should be no surprise that Potash Hill was just awarded a CASE bronze for magazine writing.

About a year ago, we started working on redesigning this venerable magazine, taking it solidly into the 20th Century (not a typo, I know it’s the 21st now) with crazy innovations like color and other such newfanglation. In all seriousness, we loved the old PH design—of course we did because we came up with that design too, over a decade ago—but it was time to give it a bit more zip.

We collaborated with the Marlboro team through focus groups, conversations, and research to make sure it was just right, launching the redesign for the Fall 2014 issue. With a school like Marlboro that doesn’t like to see its internal institutions messed with, we would have been happy with silence, but there was a gentle murmur of real appreciation for the redesign. In fact, even the most ardent of the school’s radical traditionalists gave it a solid nod of the head. Check it out at http://potash.marlboro.edu/2014/fall.