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Crafting a New College Identity

Story by
Nancy Joseph

When Wilmer Galindo enrolled in a course for visual communication design majors last spring, he could not have anticipated that a design he helped create would soon be on College of Arts and Sciences stationery, publications, websites, and other materials. Or that he and several classmates would be introduced by David Hodge, Dean of Arts and Sciences, at a meeting of all A&S faculty and staff. 

The team of students who design the College of Arts and Sciences' new identity included (from left) Marcela Vorel, Halli Brunkella, Wilmer Galindo, Heidi Waggoner, and Jason Tselentis.

The team of students who design the College of Arts and Sciences' new identity included (from left) Marcela Vorel, Halli Brunkella, Wilmer Galindo, Heidi Waggoner, and Jason Tselentis.

It all started last winter, when Hodge contacted the School of Art to discuss the need for a new visual identity for Arts and Sciences. The existing logo, or mark, featured a stylized cupola that reflected the College’s tradition of learning but not its progressiveness, its spirit of innovation.

Christopher Ozubko, director of the School of Art, suggested having visual communication design students tackle the project as part of a course, with faculty guiding the complex process. Affiliate professor Anne Traver, a principal of the Seattle design firm Methodologie, taught the course. Ozubko and Doug Wadden, professor of visual communication design, were also involved with the project. 

The quarter started with David Hodge visiting the class to discuss the need for a new identity and to describe the College’s mission and goals. “The Dean was exceptionally clear in his description of his hopes and dreams for the mark and in his description of the College’s key messages,” says Traver. “And he inspired the students with his enthusiastic appreciation of their efforts. He was a great client.” 

At the same meeting, A&S Communications Council member George Lowe presented the College’s new positioning statement, Understanding What Is, Imagining What Can Be—another reference to the College’s balance of tradition and innovation. “That message and those words are what I clued into immediately,” recalls Galindo. 

The students were eager to begin designing an identity for the College. But first came weeks of working in groups to clarify their objectives for the identity. 

“A big part was analyzing the problem and establishing criteria for the design,” says Traver. “In a professional design practice, we feel a huge responsibility to provide our clients with design solutions that not only are visually pleasing but appropriate and smart. ...I think the students were amazed at the clarity the process gave them when it was time to start designing. For most of them, I believe the preparation eliminated that unproductive wheel-spinning stage.” 

Galindo agrees that the weeks of analysis were essential. “It was such a complicated issue, developing an identity for the College,” he says. “There were political considerations since the College is part of a larger institution. It had to be effective for a diverse audience. And it had to express the right balance between traditional and progressive. There was a lot to tangle through.” 

After sharing their analyses with classmates and the Dean, the students began to work on individual designs. Weeks later they presented these to the Dean and other A&S staff and volunteers, whose comments helped further refine their approach. Finally, working in groups, they designed sample applications (stationery, website, signage) for the four marks that were selected as finalists. They presented these to the Dean and the College’s Communications Council at the end of the quarter. 

“Through this whole process, we really learned how to do a presentation,” says Galindo. “It’s been great preparation for the real world.” It helped that Hodge was so encouraging throughout the quarter. “He was such a friendly guy and seemed so excited about the process,” recalls Galindo. “He was really supportive.” 

In the end, Galindo’s mark and logotype (left)—refined by a team of students that included Galindo, Halli Brunkella, Marcela Vorel, Heidi Waggoner, and Jason Tselentis—was selected. Galindo describes the mark as a set of pathways, with the bottom portion representing ‘what is’ and the top portion, which ascends, representing ‘what can be.’ 

The student team, which spent the summer designing applications for the visual identity, can now enjoy seeing their designs on A&S materials for years to come. 

“Being able to see something conceived in my imagination, then realized in print, makes me excited about the design process,” says Galindo. “That design is part of the world now. That’s inspiring.”