In true CC fashion, a coalition of staff, faculty, students, and alumni (designated as the Knowledge Development Team, or KDT) and a trustee Strategic Project Team (SPT) closely examined the college’s rich history, traditions, stories, and identity over a period of 18 months. The goal? To present to the college and to the world — as part of the college’s strategic plan — a “truer sense of CC,” a primer for better understanding and communicating what makes Colorado College unique and meaningful. The work culminated on January 25 with the launch of a reinvigorated Colorado College brand, including the Master Communications Plan and a new college logo and visual identity system.
With research support provided by Boulder-based firm Victors & Spoils, owned by CC alum John Winsor ’82, the Master Communications Plan revealed that the core of CC’s identity can be communicated in three simple, yet powerful, elements:
Program: Colorado College is the highly selective, national liberal arts college where together, students and professors fully explore the depth and breadth of each subject, one class at a time.
Place: The Rocky Mountain West sets the stage for much of this work, from classrooms, studios, and laboratories on CC’s beautiful campus at the base of Pikes Peak to nearby mountains, the Southwest, and urban centers.
People: Here, curious, innovative, and adventurous lifelong learners foster meaningful relationships, working together toward attaining the finest liberal arts education in the country.
After crystallizing the brand into three elements, the next monumental task for the KDT and SPT was to express CC’s identity in the form of a new college logo. CC hired Studio/lab, a Chicago- and San Francisco-based firm specializing in identity design led by Marcia Lausen, director for the School of Design at the University of Illinois, Chicago and co-principal of the firm.
Their task was no easy feat: to design a new logo that reflected the college’s identity and innovative academic program, while setting it apart from traditional logos of similar liberal arts colleges.
“When we approach developing an authentic logo for an organization, we look at how an organization talks about themselves and what constituents and supporters say,” says Lausen, “and we pick out strong descriptors, or words most often used, or those words that can inspire graphic form and design.”
Some of the CC words that Studio/lab highlighted in their research included “adventurous,” “block,” “innovative,” “friendly,” “vibrant,” “unique,” and “majestic mountains.” After taking these words and churning out at least 25 different sketches for the logo, Lausen and her team realized that a bit of “graphic magic” occurred.
“We discovered that the people, and the place, and the program of Colorado College could be represented by [fundamental design shapes of] the circle, the square, and the triangle. And you can see those forms if you look for them in the final mark.”
Breaking down the new logo into these fundamental shapes reveals the authenticity of the college’s identity:
Overlapping squares (program): the Block Plan, innovative academics at CC, and the interdisciplinary and compounding nature of courses and learning.
Three triangular peaks (place): the location of the college within the Rocky Mountain panorama.
Circular Cs (people): the CC nickname; most people refer to Colorado College as “CC” — it’s how the college community acknowledges the college and each other, and so it was important for “CC” to be included in the new logo. The circular forms also represent community, collaboration, and openness.
Diagonal lines: capture the energy of the college. Everyone at the college is on the distinct CC rhythm of the Block Plan.
The varied shapes come together to form CC’s vibrant and truly unique logo, and it looks nothing like the logos of other college institutions.
“Higher education is a place that’s still getting used to the idea of brand identity. And I think that Colorado College is pioneering in many ways and has the possibility of being at the forefront of what educational identity can be today,” says Lausen.
For more information about the Master Communications Plan and new logo, visit www.coloradocollege.edu/identity
Felix A. Sanchez ’93 is creative director in the Office of Communications.