Small focus groups.

During the last meeting of the Visual Identity Committee, we decided to use small focus groups to support our commitment to broadly engaging the campus in our work. Additionally, we would like to use feedback from these small group meetings to test and confirm some of the decisions we are making. Our design subcommittee has done some great work and we’d like the chance to share it more broadly.

I have already contacted the executive committees of several stakeholder groups. We are soliciting names of individuals to include in focus groups from:

  • Faculty Assembly
  • Professional Faculty Assembly
  • Staff Assembly
  • Student Assembly

We are also planning to put together some alumni focus groups. Several of us on the Visual Identity Committee work with boards and advisory groups whose members include local alumni.

If you are out there reading this blog and would like to participate, say so!

– Susan T. Evans

Should I be worried?

During the past several weeks, I was the guest speaker at a number of meetings and had the chance to offer an update about the W&M visual identity project. Should I be worried that the topic of fewer logos and marks for William & Mary is apparently not controversial?

Attendance at my campus presentations included a wide range of individuals – staff, administrators, and faculty. I talk about the fact that we have too many logos at William & Mary. I even state that in order to have fewer, we’ll have to retire some. So far, people are nodding in agreement.

Perhaps I owe a debt of gratitude to popular culture. In recent years, there is a better understanding of brand. People seem more aware that a consistent impression about your organization matters. Is this all because so many of us watch Mad Men?

Regardless, I’m relieved. Now, on to the next phase. We’ll be putting together small focus groups with current students and alumni. We plan to use the focus groups to confirm early recommendations about the William & Mary wordmark and logo.

– Susan T. Evans

We took a vow.

The visual identity committee started the new year by taking a vow. We will not design by committee. Sounds simple enough. But in case you aren’t schooled in the ways of creative decision making, read these posts and get yourself up to speed:

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Boagworld: Death to design by committee.

Smashing Magazine: Why design by committee should die.

The Floating Frog: Design by committee: a designer’s worst nightmare!

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Yes, we are reviewing logos and marks used at William & Mary with a goal of recommending a core set of logos and marks for immediate use. After all, wouldn’t it be great to have a website to go to for downloads of recommended logos? Ah, nirvana.

To prevent the design by committee pitfalls, we are relying on the expertise of a small group of professional designers. These individuals will make recommendations to the broader committee.

  • Joel Pattison, Creative Services
  • Cindy Baker, Creative Services
  • Eric Pesola, Alumni Association
  • Justin Schoonmaker, Creative Services

All members of the visual identity committee are dedicated to our charge from the W&M strategic plan – “to distill a common identity for the university.” But just because we live in houses doesn’t make us architects.

– Susan T. Evans

Identity crisis anyone?

I received this thoughtful message from Ian, a William & Mary student. After checking in with Ian to see if he’d agree, I’m posting his thoughts here.

As evidenced by the massive number of “official” logos used by various College entities, William and Mary clearly has a kind of identity crisis. I looked at the list of logos that the committee has compiled, and I have seen all but two used as a letterhead, identifying mark, etc.

I can understand the use of multiple logos to a certain extent. The College is well into its fourth century of existence, and symbols, like the seal, that represent it. However, the fact that 24 symbols (and counting) are used by the College is unsettling.

If anything, I would hope that the Visual Identity Committee will consolidate these various logos into a manageable number that, when viewed, instantly say “William and Mary.” When I think of Yale, I think of the “Y.” When I think of Princeton and Emory, I think of the shield, and when I think of Michigan, I think of the blue and gold “M.” I feel that the College should hold itself in the same categories as these same institutions, and could easily follow the examples set by each.

The College has strict standards for all new building on campus, as laid out in the strategic plan, but it seems to have little coordination in its presentation of logos.

A university as iconic as William and Mary deserves an equally iconic logo, something that is synonymous with the reputation of the College. To achieve that, I hope that the Visual Identity Committee will consolidate, simplify and coordinate the logos of College into something that all members of the William and Mary community can recognize and in which they can take pride.

William & Mary students. They. get. it.
– Susan T. Evans

Coming to a meeting near you.

I’ve been making the rounds and hope to see many more of you during some upcoming presentations about the work of the Visual Identity Committee. Thanks to all of you who have helped us gather up logos currently in use – we appreciate your willingness to help. Things are moving along well.

To date, I’ve had the opportunity to update several W&M committees that represent the official campus communication structure. These include:

  • the president’s communication team
  • the college communications council
  • the challenge six subcommittee of the Planning Steering Committee

Here are details about my presentations to an even broader range of people in the William & Mary community:

  • January 31 – All Deans meeting hosted by Provost Michael Halleran
  • February 1 – Staff Assembly
  • February 16 – Professional Faculty Assembly
  • February 17 – Student Affairs division meeting
  • February 22 – Faculty Assembly

You can always tell us what you’re thinking here.

– Susan T. Evans

Let me hear you say, “Wow.”

Several of you have forwarded this link about the University of Colorado’s branding project. The total cost for the CU rebranding effort that included some visual identity work was $780,000 (gulp).

I’m with CU on their commitment to sending a consistent and unified message. I know that logos are serious business and that there is a wealth of complexity behind their simplicity. Beyond that, I don’t know what to say.

– Susan T. Evans

Three lessons from corporate America

A few prominent companies updated their logos in the last few months with mixed results. Google updated their logo in May 2010, Gap made a disastrous change in October 2010 and Starbucks announced a new look just last week. What lessons can W&M learn from these corporate visual identity projects? My thoughts:

1: Evolutionary change is good
The Gap’s ill-fated new logo was a complete departure from Gap’s well-established visual brand — the change did nothing to build on an already iconic design. Google chose a better path; they updated an aging (but highly recognizable!) logo by brightening the colors and losing the drop shadow.

Lesson: Refine (but don’t reinvent) W&M’s visual identity.


2: Icons can be more powerful than words
Starbucks just removed their name from their corporate logo. This may seem odd but think about the Nike swoosh, the Mercedes symbol or the Apple emblem. The icon evokes more recognition standing alone. The key word in visual identity is visual.

Lesson: Remember the power of singular marks.

3: Change should be goal-driven
The new Starbucks logo wasn’t change for the sake of change — USA today reports that Starbucks is entering the beer and wine market. Dropping the word “coffee” from their visual identity was a strategic decision by Starbucks to shift public perception about the company and its products.

Lesson: Changes to W&M’s visual identity should be driven by W&M’s strategic goals.

We’ll continue to keep a close eye on other visual identity projects for ideas and potential pitfalls.

-Joel Pattison

We’re taking up a collection.

The Visual Identity Committee is collecting the William & Mary marks and logos in use and we need your help. We’d like to hear from you about any other W&M logos or marks that you are actively using. We suspect that many departments are using logos we already know about.

To make things a bit easier, here is the current collection. No need to tell us about anything that you already see displayed here. But here’s how you can help:

1. By Friday, January 28, 2011, please send me an email about any additional logos or marks you are using. Attach the file(s) to your message (.pdf, .jpg, etc.).

2. Mention that we’re taking up a collection to others you know who have communication responsibility at William & Mary. We’d like to hear from them too!

Perhaps you’re wondering why we are gathering up existing logos and marks. There are three primary reasons:

  • to inform the scope of the committee’s work
  • to see what is in use that might be adopted for broader use by the university
  • to identify potential issues

If you’d like to provide thoughts or suggestions to the committee, please use this feedback form.

Thanks for your help,
– Susan T. Evans