Based on our recent global survey of more than 100 higher ed brand identity redesigns over the past 2 years, Ken Steele counts down the 10 best rebrandings – those that are professional, memorable, balanced and well-designed, AND that didn’t spark a backlash from faculty, students or alumni.
In Part 1 last week, we looked at #10-6. Now, the countdown continues:
Plenty of higher ed brand identities feature mountains, but ESU pulled off a slick rebrand that continues to emphasize its location near the Delaware Water Gap in the Pocono mountains. In 2017, ESU replaced a 24-year-old logo with a new one using a ceremonial banner shape. The ESU Warriors finally got a polished new mascot too, a Spartanesque warrior in the same banner shape.
Colorado College, ranked the best private college in the state by Forbes magazine, is particularly notable for its setting near the base of Pikes Peak, and its revolutionary “block plan”. (Students take a single course at a time, for 3.5 weeks, before moving on to the next “block”.) In early 2016, CC unveiled a striking new identity that replaced a 20-year-old calligraphic logo. The new logo integrated circles (for Cs and representing the campus community) and triangles (suggesting mountains), within square blocks (for the unique pedagogical approach).
There were also a couple of “runners-up” that featured mountains: California’s Feather River College, and BC’s College of the Rockies. Both were massive improvements, and show creative promise, but somehow came up just a little short.
After 18 years, SAIT finally jettisoned their swooshy, “Jetsons”-like identity for a bold new brand that is a breath of fresh air! It added 3 new colours to the traditional red and blue, and created a 3D spherical icon, “the Catalyst,” as an “activator of change.”
University Campus Suffolk got independent university title in May 2016, adopting the new name “University of Suffolk”, and launching a new visual identity by Only. The simple black square represents a shield of sorts, with a yellow triangle in the corner pointing to its location in the southeast of England. 45-degree angles create a sense of momentum throughout marketing materials.
Since it gained university status in 2008, Capilano has revamped its visual identity twice. First they abandoned a stack of blue books for carved blue letters that evoked indigenous tradition. In 2016, they unveiled a much more dynamic, colourful identity that masterfully combines traditional academic shield and eagle feathers in the Coast Salish indigenous tradition.
Alberta’s Northern Lakes College likewise leveraged the traditional symbol of the eagle in their new identity, a runner-up for this episode.
Finally, honourable mention goes to Minneapolis’ Augsburg College, for an extremely subtle rebranding unrolling this fall as Augsburg University. Alumnus Samuel Gross showed great attention to detail and significantly improved upon the former wordmark.
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