A Journey Into Revamping Our School's Visual Identity
A few days ago, a student-journalist at the American International School of Bucharest (AISB) reached out to ask for my insights on our recent rebranding process, of which I was a leading member. What I shared with her, and will also share with you today, briefly summarizes the journey through this incredibly rewarding (and substantial!) project that is now more representative of where we are in place and time at our school.
I used to have mixed feelings about our brand. As iconic designer Charles Eames famously stated, “recognizing the need is the primary condition for design,” and that deeply resonates with my work as an Educational Technologist. Media literacy up-skilling and digital content creation are an essential part of what I do, and I’m not going to lie: there was a great deal of frustration over the number of logos and sub-logos being used interchangeably, which made it difficult for our colleagues to identify our brand identity in the first place. Plus, it just badly needed an uplift.
In my role, I like to take a pragmatic approach to user experience design, combining what I know about learning technologies with my love of design thinking and visual literacy. So, even though I was knee-deep in online learning-related business when our director Peter Welch invited me to join this process, I didn’t think twice. In fact, joining the in-house collaborative of Art/Design teachers and practitioners, formed by Alma Hadzic, Suzanne Shortt, Steve Aubin & Erik Peterson, and our Communications lead, Ana Costiniu, proved to be one of the most joyful and rewarding initiatives I have been professionally involved in thus far.
There were multiple layers to this process. To unpack and synthesize some of the essential elements that make up the user experience at our school, the core questions we kept going back to were: What do we want people to feel when they interact with the brand? What are the values that speak to us as a community of learners? What are the unique characteristics of our brand’s personality?
In the process, we also sought to be truthful to the perspectives of the 24 focus groups, representing different stakeholders, who provided feedback on our initial iterations– a process led with great care by our former Admissions/External Relations Lead Catalina Gardescu.
With such diverse thoughts and ideas about what our image should (and shouldn’t) be, we then worked to generate a list of attributes that were coming through loud and clear. Among the most significant were joyful, cohesive, contemporary, and generative. What’s more, we were determined to build a concept that was inspired by Romania, but able to transcend the local context.
In the end, this is what we came up with:
Of course I shared with our budding journalist how proud our team is of this initiative, in spite of the cognitive load and effort it added to our full-time jobs. We have all learned so much about consolidating the diverse elements that make us who we are at AISB, and feel like we ended up with a concept that is fresh, playful, and representative of the Creative, Courageous and Compassionate community that we aspire to be.
And while I didn’t go into detail with the student about what it took to redesign our school website to reflect our new identity, I will share with you my pride in its delivery as well; webmaster Catalin Nicoara and I took on this project during the last six weeks of the school year (!) to be unveiled before the first day of the new teacher orientation. We have rebuilt it from scratch, copy and all, in less than two months.
Challenging? No doubt; the entire process was hectic, but also insightful, packed with purpose, and fun. I am truly grateful for all that I have learned in the journey.