The options for rebranding a college or university

3 years ago  •  By  •  0 Comments

One day, you will face a dilemma. You will have already identified a need to rebrand the college or university you currently work at, but who will you entrust to undertake the project? There are many options to choose from but ultimately the choice must be the correct one – the fate of the institution might very well rest on your decision!

So, what are your options?

The DIY option

The DIY option is often a common reason to rebrand but certainly not one to consider this time round. A logo created years ago by an authoritative individual within the organisation might have been acceptable then but nowadays, it won’t wash with your target demographic. Besides, a brand consists of many individual items, not just one.

The niece or nephew option

It seems everyone has a niece or nephew (or some member of the family) who has a ‘qualification’ in graphic design. On face value, it would be great experience for them, but it would be unfair to place so much responsibility on an individual who may not have the specialist knowledge or the refined skills required for such a major project. An unsatisfactory solution might also put you in a difficult position, not to mention the reputation of your college or university.

The competition option

It might seem a good idea to involve the immediate community by running a design competition. Whilst useful for publicity, should you rely on a stab-in-the-dark approach to solve your brand problem. An extremely thorough brief would have to be supplied but, even then, a conversation is the only way to gain the key information necessary to produce the right solution. A range of entries might reveal a gem but how will you work with the winner to refine it to work on a website, or on signage or on communications material? Will they even want to? How do you even know if the work is original?

The crowdsource option

Involving the ‘design’ community would possibly lead to a more professional looking outcome but again, the solution would be a hit or miss due to it being developed in isolation from you. You would be faced with hundreds of designs to choose from (for very little cost) but the result would be a limited identity with no substance and no thought for the rest of the brand strategy. Your winning selection will be based on emotion (personal choice) instead of research and fact. Plus, who exactly would be doing the work? The web can be a deceptive place so an ‘experienced designer’ could in reality be absolutely anyone. For more information on crowdsourcing, click here. (link to ‘Quality design vs take away design’ article)

The free pitch option

This is a bit like running a competition where you may offer a design agency the change to work for free to create your brand. Whilst true professionals are engaged for their expertise, knowledge and skills, this way of working relies mostly on guesswork and assumption on the designers part (it is after all another competition) – hardly a good foundation to build your brand on. Many free pitches are fitted in around paid work, sometimes cobbled together after hours too. But, do you expect a designer to produce their best work for free? Why should they if you are reluctant to pay for it. Essentially what you may initially gain for free might later mean you pay over the odds (for additional work) because nothing is for ‘free’.

The in-house design team option

It’s common to have an in-house design team who, in many instances, are very good at what they do. However, a project like a rebrand might benefit greatly if it’s undertaken by an external organisation. It could then be approached from a neutral standpoint with a fresh eye and a point of view based on fact not emotion (no internal politics to influence the outcome). The in-house team could still provide invaluable insight as to the misgivings of the old brand and effectively implementing the new one.

The outside agency option

Engaging a professional firm to undertake your college or university rebrand would reduce many of the issues and worries outlined in the options above. A professional approach is more likely to produce a stronger solution, especially if its conceived within a collaborative environment based on conversation not assumption. A strategy that firstly identifies the problem and then generates a solution reflecting the uniqueness and the values of the college or university will always be a better outcome for you. In selecting an appropriate creative firm (who may even specialise in your vertical) you could be building a relationship to evolve the brand long-term.

The ‘leave it until next year’ option

After reading all the above options, the simplest choice may be to put it off until a later date (or next year). If you’ve already identified a need to rebrand, the problem will remain until you do something about it. Your choice won’t be made any easier, the dilemma will still be the same.

In the end the decision is yours but in the interests of the college or university you represent, make sure you make the right choice and for the right reasons.