Columbia College Rebranding 2018-2019
Updated: Jun 10
In 2018 I joined Columbia College as a graphic designer and visual communications specialist. I was the very first graphic designer ever hired to work directly with the College brand and was the only creative professional in the team of marketing and communications colleagues.
The first thing on my agenda when I start any new job or project is to conduct a thorough audit of what's been done before me. The leadership was requesting a "refresh" of the visual identity, but there was no clear understanding why this needs to happen or how.
While studying and reviewing long (since 1754) visual history of Columbia College, a few things became apparent:
- signature Pantone 292 needed strong reinforcement to truly become a designated Columbia College color
- the logo is lacking symmetry and "1754" part has very poor legibility
- school serving offices have a strong need to have their own identity that's aligned with the College brand and easy to replicate both in print and digitally
- school web properties (24 of them) need consistency to be identified as part of the College brand
- College visual identity lacks versatility and flexibility, it's very "flat" and formal
- College doesn't have established styleguide and staff is not trained to utilize the suite of logos
- existing visual identity is not consistent and not ADA compliant outside of the College website.
“...just another digital version
of a highly analogue original...”
Before 2007 different College offices had been using a different version of the crown. Each logo made different choices on the position and sharpness of details, and they all used different typefaces
for the “1754” element. An “official” crown had never been defined, but all versions seemed to have been based on an original specimen. The earliest version of the crown located that used the “1754” element was a component of the old Columbia College Alumni Association logo.
This logo was most certainly intended as more of a seal than a logo, and it was literally “stamped” onto marketing collateral. It is naturally understood that the current logo is technically just another digital version of a highly analogue original specimen, but hopefully it does the original design as much justice as historically possible.
In 2007 Tom MacLean, the webmaster of the Columbia College Today magazine, created “original crown” based on the 1935 stamp. It was blessed by Dean Austin Quigley (the Dean of Columbia College at the time) and is was used in everything from marketing collateral to architectural details in campus buildings. Since this crown technically is just another digital version of a highly analogue original specimen, logo replication in some promo and print projects was particularly difficult.
Stamp created in analogue era – handcrafted, not computer aided design
Over time due to regular use rubber stamp lost its fine detailing
Tracing such “antique” specimen resulted in asymmetry and blending of elements
All of this led to crown showing obvious asymmetry and “1754” being either illegible or unprintable in small sizes.
The Crown Review
Comparative overlay shows obvious asymmetry in the original crown
Almost invisible for a naked eye, but cannot be unseen once introduced
Causes issues in print and digital production
1754 is an essential part of the logo – needs more legibility and recognition
Spacing issues and irregular shape of the numbers make original typography difficult to reproduce in small sizes, on textured and curved surfaces
Originally intended as an imitation of handwriting, traced over the old rubber stamp
New, symmetrical crown
New, more modern font for 1754 part
1754 part is placed further away from the crown to ensure legibility in small sizes
Signature color for the crown changes from Pantone 279 to Pantone 292
This animation shows that changes were subtle yet significantly improved the overall shape of the logomark, it became more balanced and appears more solid.