brand development for higher education
Marylhurst University is a private liberal arts university just south of Portland, Oregon that’s been around for more than 100 years. Founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary, its values of educating the whole person and preparing them to improve the world through ethical leadership, service and social responsibility remain unchanged.
As Marylhurst evolved from a women’s liberal arts college to the co-educational, multigenerational university it is today, there had been a lack of clarity in what Marylhurst stands for, what it offers, who it serves and the quality of its teaching and learning experience.
To address these challenges, the university worked with an outside consultant to develop the brand platform, then partnered with Phinney Bischoff to develop the messaging and tagline, logo, visual language and brand guide, and finally the website that launched last month, June 2012.
The result is a bold and sophisticated voice and visual language system that more accurately represents the progressive, relevant and rigorous learning experience that Marylhurst University provides for its serious learners.
The previous logo was a simplified, line art version of the university seal, which didn’t scale effectively or adequately represent the university. Because of these limitations, there were other visual applications, such as the BP John Tower, used as the logo. Having multiple representations of the university only added to mixed perceptions and general lack of awareness for the school.
Simplified logo version of the university seal
BP John Tower illustration logo
Original University Seal
We knew that the university seal was important as it contains historic symbols and the university’s motto, “The wise of heart seek knowledge.” It has its purpose for specific communication needs (e.g., special commendations and events coming from the Marylhurst University Board of Trustees and/or Office of the President, formal and presidential documents, etc.). The purpose of the new logo was not to replace the rich history and founding beliefs the seal symbolized.
Presented in the final round
While the seal embraces Marylhurst’s history, the new identity, along with the tagline “You. Unlimited.”, embraces the progressive and innovative strengths of the school. It reconciles key creative tensions that make Marylhurst unique:
Historical and Forward-thinking
Values-based and Open/Welcoming
Adult-student and Traditional-student focus
Messaging and Visual Language Development
Once the logo and tagline were finalized, we moved into the messaging framework and visual language development.
New logo and tagline
The “M” mark is an interplay between serif-esque elements and modern clean lines. The discovery of the hidden “U” adds an element of surprise. The balance continues with the use of the san-serif Dinot typeface
for the university name and the classic Garamond typeface for the tagline.
Our team presenting the messaging framework and visual language exploration to the Marylhurst brand team.
What resulted was a bold voice and visual language system that reinforces their unique and innovative learning environment. We designed the overview brochure and folder, and provided sample applications and a brand guide to help empower the Marylhurst team.
Folder and Department Brochures
We then moved into the website planning, design and development. This part of the process deserves its own dedicated blog post, which I hope to follow up with soon. In short, it was a comprehensive endeavor that resulted in a website that delivers upon the brand experience and brings the personalized on-campus experience online.
The entire process could not have gone any smoother. Our Marylhurst University partners were invested and engaged every step of the way. From the first moment I stepped on to the Marylhurst University campus in Oregon over two years ago, my respect and belief in what this school and the devoted staff and professors offer has only grown exponentially. It’s a thrill to see the brand come to life and communicated in a way that truly represents the bold and progressive spirit that has been carried forward for over a century.
Project Team: Rebecca Arbeene, Devin Liddell, Cody Rasmussen, Ed Ouellette, Nick Chapman, Ryan Scherler and Audrey Na