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Q&A on the New Visual Identity
August 22, 2012
Lorraine Voles, vice president for external relations, answers questions about GW’s new visual identity, which will be unveiled Sunday at 7 p.m. at University Yard.
The George Washington University will get a makeover Sunday when its new visual identity is unveiled.
The reveal comes at an important time for the university: It is celebrating its 100-year anniversary in Foggy Bottom and officials will soon move forward with an updated strategic plan that will chart the university’s course for the next decade.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of the George Washington University,” GW President Steven Knapp said. “This year we are launching a new strategic plan that will guide the university into its third century. I am especially impressed by the way our new visual identity brings together the university’s founding vision and the bold aspirations that will shape its future.”
Provost Steven Lerman noted, “Periodically refreshing an institution’s visual identity is something that is an important element of any university’s communications strategy. I am pleased that we will be moving forward in a way that is visually stimulating and unique—and with something that conveys a sense of who we are and where we’re headed.”
Lorraine Voles, vice president for external relations, led the effort to update the visual identity. Ms. Voles recently discussed the university’s new look and feel, addressing the obstacles with the current identity—and the opportunities with the new one.
Q: Why did the university need to develop a new visual identity?
A: The initial reasons were quite practical. The current logo and portrait did not translate well online, in mobile applications or on video screens. So while updating our visual identity was important for pragmatic and technological reasons, we were also afforded an opportunity to create a visual look and feel more representative of the university we are today. In addition, the new system helps unify our diverse departments, schools and campuses, but still allows for each to express its individuality.
Q: What, specifically, were the problems with the portrait and logo?
A: The current portrait of George Washington is a photograph of a painting, so making it bigger or smaller, adding it to a mobile application—all of these presented problems. It became pixilated and didn’t translate well digitally. John McGlasson, who’s a double alumnus and a staff member in marketing and creative services, created the new portrait, and that is a real point of pride for a lot of us. The new portrait is based on the most accurate representation of George Washington, the Houdon sculpture, a replica of which is in University Yard.
The current logo, with its thin font and lines, also doesn’t translate well online or on TV. And it was created in a fixed rectangular shape, which presents problems for departments or schools with much longer or shorter names. (Read more about the issues with the current logo and portrait.)
Q: What do you see as the most important qualities of the new visual identity?
A: Our new identity is bold, passionate and forward-looking. It shows GW, in the heart of the nation’s capital, offers a university experience that no other institution can offer. It shows our academics, extracurricular activities and internship opportunities are second to none. And it shows how our students, faculty and staff make a difference in the world through their research, public service and connections to important institutions in DC and around the world.
Q: What was the process for developing and implementing the visual identity?
A: A couple of years ago, a committee of students, faculty, staff and alumni began the process by developing a message strategy that reflects the qualities that make GW unique, and the Division of External Relations hosted town halls with the university community to solicit feedback. (Read more about the process.)
To create and implement the identity, we hired the consulting firms FutureBrand and 160over90. FutureBrand helped refresh the university’s core identity elements and 160over90 created the new look and feel for our marketing and communication materials. (Read a Q&A with representatives from the consulting firms.)
Q: When did GW last change its logo?
A: In 2002. Before that, the last redesign was in 1988. (See former logos.)
Q: When will the new visual identity be revealed?
A: You may have noticed that we began promoting the identity launch on Monday at the Foggy Bottom Metro station. On Sunday at 7 p.m., we’re hosting a celebration on University Yard, where we will officially reveal the new GW logo. (See a teaser video.) Attendees can enjoy free food, music and giveaways. And there’s also a screening of The Avengers, hosted by Program Board, at 8 p.m.
Q: What is the Making History campaign?
A: The Making History campaign is a way for us to capture important stories from the GW community. Students, faculty, staff and alumni can share their GW story, no matter how big or small, in a mobile studio that will be parked at University Yard during the logo reveal. The studio will stay on campus through Aug. 30. The stories will be featured on go.gwu.edu/makinghistory beginning Aug. 27. You can also record your own story, and share it on the site through YouTube or Flickr.
Q: What is the schedule for the mobile studio?
A: Aug. 26: University Yard, 7-10 p.m.; Aug. 27: University Yard, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Aug. 28: University Yard, 12-8:30 p.m.; Aug. 29: University Yard: 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Aug. 30: Virginia Science and Technology Campus, Innovation Hall: 12-3 p.m. and Enterprise Hall: 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Q: There seem to be a lot of new slogans and taglines with the new marketing direction.
A: We actually don’t have an official slogan or tagline. Instead, the marketing copy that some have seen will refresh the university’s tone of voice. We believe this tone will help differentiate the university and provide a platform that the GW community can be proud of.
Q: Will the new visual identity be rolled out everywhere right away?
A: No. It isn’t possible to change a logo everywhere it appears in a matter of days. And it doesn’t always make economic sense to change a logo that has already been installed. If you look around campus you can occasionally see the logo from two or three generations ago. This is an ongoing process. The new identity will first appear on the GW homepage, campus signage that routinely needs to be replaced and in marketing materials.
Q: Are there guidelines for departments and schools when implementing the new visual identity?
A: Yes. Staff can request a copy of the Identity Standards and Guidelines by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The goal is to ensure that the schools and units have the flexibility they need to accomplish their objectives and at the same time that we be seen as a single university with a common look and feel.
Q: Do departments need to throw away letterhead, business cards, etc., with the current identity?
A: No. Departments and schools should continue to use materials they already have with the current logo. One of our goals is to ensure that the transition is implemented in a cost-effective manner. As they begin to replace these items, however, they will order them with the new logo and portrait. We also encourage units to transition to electronic letterhead when feasible. We expect departments and schools will be fully integrated into the new visual identity by June 2013.
Q: Will the visual identity for Athletics change?
Q: How much did creating the new visual identity cost?
A: The Division of External Relations covered the costs associated with developing the new visual identity. Having said this, it is really impossible to identify the precise cost of developing and implementing the new identity. Much of the work associated with the development of the new identity was performed internally and was part of other programs within the division, including the university web project. Likewise, some of the cost of implementation is associated with either routine lifecycle replacement or the cost of new projects. For example, external signs and flags are routinely replaced, and the signage associated with the Science and Engineering Hall will be absorbed by the building’s construction budget.
Q: I have more questions. Whom do I contact?
A: You can email email@example.com.