September 3, 2014

Protecting the brand


I remember back when I stepped into the PHS website management business a couple of years ago, I posted a couple of posts about what I saw to be the needs of PCSD in the digital realm - consistent branding, centralization of design, elimination of non- or quasi-official web presences (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc) - and before that, as the district was transitioning to SchoolWorld's web management and hosting, I asked about things like a standard font, a style guide for the website.

(There, I'm finished patting myself on the back and saying "I told you so." I promise not to do it again for the full duration of this post.)

This summer the Princeton City School District adopted branding guidelines that included print media guidelines (fonts, logos, letterheads, slogans) and digital media guidelines (fonts, logos, specific account names and access). I finally got around to reading the guidelines, and I thought I would offer up my's my blog, I guess.
  • I appreciate the definition of the brand...celebrating diversity, pushing our students, joining the students & staff as 'learners.' I'll admit that I have no idea how this brand platform is reflected in the various choices made further along in the guidelines, but it's important to define who/what you are so that everything can come back to reflect that.
  • I don't get the Modern Nostalgia thing, admittedly. History, Purpose, Identity, and Destiny, either.
  • The Viking of choice - white horns, red back flap, grey band - is clearly the right choice. I miss the three-dimensional character and high-resolution nature of some of the Vikings, but the one they chose is a solid choice.
  • I don't care for the "single color (all scarlet) to be used for athletic branding" option, and I'm not sure what 'athletic branding' really is. I assume that the four-color Viking will still be seen on athletic things like the gym floor.
  • Interestingly, the floor in the auxiliary gym of the new high school has the grey-horned logo about twenty feet across on the floor. Maybe should have come up with this plan before painting the floor.
  • Also interesting that the Viking is always straight level not tilted slightly upward. This isn't address anywhere in the branding brochure, but there are a lot of Princeton things where the Viking is at a tilt.
  • The hat that I'm currently wearing (shown on the left) has the wrong logo in at least three ways: wrong horns, helmet band, back flap colors. It wasn't printed by Princeton but rather by a hat shop in Tri-County Mall back in the days before Princeton had a spirit shop in its most recent incarnation. The other hat I have was made by Princeton a few years back and is the right Viking.
  •  The thoroughness of the logo presentation - on white background, on colored background - is appreciated.
  • I'll miss the LHF Brewers Bold font in the Princeton City Schools logo. The Proxima Nova Condensed font is more contemporary but lacks elegance. I also don't like the kerning on the logo.
  • The two-color oval is interesting. I can't see it large enough to see if the red fades to grey or if it changes immediately. It also seems to have a lot of white space between the central logo and the oval. Interesting choice to do that.
  • The secondary logos - the crests - are very interesting. They're the only place with the Viking ship and the P encircled logos. They're also transparent which none of the other logos are. Again, an interesting choice to do that. It makes the logo as displayed in the center on that slide (the PCMS logo) very hard to read against the light grey portion of the photo background.
  • I still find it hilarious that the Little Vikes logo, a pretty blatant copy of the old Cleveland State logo, is still around.
  • I never knew there was an athletic hall of fame logo.
  • I've always hated the flying "P" logo, and I'm happy to see it go. The Viking horn as the top of the P was interesting, but the P always looked squat and deformed to me. I'm sorry to see that the Princeton Education Foundation would still be using it.
  • There's no definition of Princeton red or scarlet in a web color. It's R187 G0 B0, but no idea in hex what that is. I'm sure I can find out, but it's an oversight. Same with the gray.
  • Why, my that's a lot of different, approved fonts. Why is Trajan Pro there?
  • Interestingly, the font on the New Social Network Communication Plan slide isn't one of the approved fonts.
  • Only having one Princeton FB page is going to get, I would think, crowded with too many individual school postings.
  • The email signature is hilariously long, and I hate but understand the supposed need for the confidentiality notice. I doubt it would have much legal standing with the ease with which email is forwardable, but I understand it. I'm using it, though I've seen lots of modifications (color changes, font size changes) to other people's signatures at school. Interestingly, if I reply to someone, the signature is automatically included, but if they've used some font other than arial, my signature changes to their font. I don't know what's up with that.
  • The 24/7 Princeton Pride slogan lives. It's fascinating to me that the 24/7 - which came from the football numbers of two players who died during their Princeton years - is still around and has morphed into something used all the time. 
  • I'm sorry to see 'Go Vikes' not being acceptable anymore.
  • The letterhead with the watermark Dream Achieve is actually kind of attractive. I like it and wonder when we'll get a chance to use it ourselves. I'm still using letterhead from a decade ago and just keep updating the principals' names.
  • I wonder if the Gary Pack business cards were real creations or digital ones. I don't understand some of the letters there. T=telephone...M=??...W=email?...A=address
  • I'm surprised that the city is listed on the business cards as Cincinnati instead of Sharonville where the central office actually is.
  • Dr Pack is leaving us in a couple of weeks (but staying as a consultant for a year and a few months beyond that). I wonder if he has to turn in his business cards if they do exist in meatspace.
  • I find the background of the sample brochure hard to read.
All in all, I'm thrilled this project has been put together. There are certainly creative choices I might have made differently, but I'm no graphic designer and am barely even an amateur one.

The sell is going to be, I'm afraid, tough. Teachers are fiercely independent, wanting to use their favorite little graphic, their favorite font, their favorite font color, their favorite colors. I wish the branding police a lot of luck, persistence, and patience, because they're going to need all three, I'm afraid.

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