George Washington University Unveils New Visual Identity

Hundreds of students, faculty, staff and alumni gathered to see the university’s new logo.

August 26, 2012

George Washington portrait

New Portrait

The George Washington University revealed its new visual identity on Sunday after two years of research, university-wide collaboration and design.

George Washington President Steven Knapp unveiled the university’s new look and logo in the Marvin Center in front of hundreds of GW students, faculty, staff and alumni. The bolder, more modern approach features a sans serif font for the logo and a digital portrait of George Washington, which was created by John McGlasson, B.A. ’00, M.F.A. ’03, who is the assistant director of visual design within GW’s Division of External Relations. The university worked closely with the curator of Mount Vernon Estate, Museum & Gardens to ensure the historical integrity of the portrait. The new portrait is based on Jean-Antoine Houdon’s sculpture of George Washington, which is considered the most accurate rendering of the first president. A replica of the sculpture can be found in University Yard. The original Houdon bust is on permanent display at Mount Vernon.

“The visual identity we’re revealing today is so important because it’s one of the ways in which our story begins to be presented to the multiple audiences that reach us through our websites, through our flags, through our business cards, through everything we do across the university. So we have developed a new vocabulary, a new way of talking about the university, a new way of depicting the university visually that will present our story at least in its raw form,” said Dr. Knapp. “I’m impressed by the new vocabulary. I think it does a great job of connecting the vision that our founding imaginer, our originator George Washington had when he died in 1799 and left in his last will and testament a vision of a university that would educate citizen leaders on to the future. That vision is embodied in this new way of imagining the university, and it also connects us to our aspirations to become simply the most powerful and influential research university in one of the greatest cities in the world.”

During the unveiling, students, faculty, staff and alumni enjoyed music and free food from three of D.C.’s food trucks: CapMac, Captain Cookie and DC Empanadas. After the new logo was revealed, attendees enjoyed free popcorn while watching The Avengers, which was sponsored by GW’s Program Board.

The new logo was designed to unite GW’s diverse campuses, schools and programs while also reinforcing the university’s reputation as a world-class research institution.  

“The old logo did not translate well into online and mobile mediums. There was little consistency around visual identity across the university, and each department and school had its own look and feel,” said Lorraine Voles, vice president for external relations. “The new logo and portrait are more representative of the university we are today and what we aspire to be in the future. Modernizing them also provides for better use across a broad array of applications that will serve the entire university community for years to come.” 

Lynda Maddox, a professor of marketing and advertising in GW’s School of Business who was part of the working group throughout the process, said having a consistent look and feel is often difficult in an organization as large as GW.  

“I think a lot of people don’t realize how important the look and feel is to a university. It really benefits everyone,” said Dr. Maddox. “The new logo brings the entire university together in a unified and forward-looking image.” 

In 2010, a university-wide committee led a research effort to develop a new message strategy that better reflected the qualities that make GW unique from other universities. Based on that strategy, the university hired two consulting firms in 2011 to help create a cohesive visual identity that aligned with the message strategy. The two firms selected were FutureBrand and 160over90. FutureBrand, whose global chairman, Christopher Nurko, received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from GW’s Elliott School of International Affairs, was tasked with helping the university refresh its core identity elements. 160over90 was responsible for helping GW create a new look and feel for the university’s marketing and communication materials. 

“This is not a stagnant university,” said Forrest Maltzman, senior vice provost for academic affairs and planning. “It’s a university on the move, and I’m really excited we now have a logo that reflects that.” 

To help guide the university through this process, 75 students, faculty, staff and alumni served on a working group together.  

“The rebranding of GW has been a thoughtful process from day one. Many different groups of key stakeholders, including students from across all the different schools at the university, have been involved with this process and have been able to offer their insight and input throughout the different stages,” said Michael Komo, B.A. ’11, M.P.S. ’12 and a student in GW’s Law School, who served on the working group. “One of the parts that I really take pride in is how bold the new look is. GW is a progressive school, and the new look and logo truly encapsulate that spirit.”  

In addition to the new logo, the university has also launched a new campaign microsite to demonstrate how members of its community have made an impact on the world using the knowledge and relationships developed during their time at GW. The site will feature stories of the GW community and how they have made history in big and small ways. 

“The new branding is representative of the unique spirit of GW students – a burning desire to make an impact in this world through one’s specific passions and interests, no matter what they are,” said Chris Kim, a senior majoring in economics in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, who also served on the working group.   

Community members can submit their own stories via YouTube or Flickr or record their stories in a mobile television studio that will be at various sites on GW’s three campuses until Aug. 30.  

Dr. Maltzman encouraged students to tell the community why they came to GW and what “only at GW events” they’ve had the chance to be a part of.  

During the unveiling of the new visual identity Sunday, students had the opportunity to record their stories in the GW Making History mobile studio. The mobile studio will be at the Foggy Bottom Campus in University Yard on Monday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., on Tuesday from noon to 8:30 p.m. and on Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The mobile studio will be at the Virginia Science and Technology Campus on Thursday from noon to 3 p.m. in Innovation Hall and from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. in Enterprise Hall.