For more than 50 years, Harford County Public Schools has been represented by a straightforward logo with a homespun look. Now, signs are pointing to a logo change and public input is being sought on two new designs, one of which will be recommended to the Harford County Board of Education in August by Superintendent of Schools Robert M. Tomback.
The logo change was sparked five years ago by a $17,200 communications audit that was commissioned by the school board with the goal of improving overall communications with stakeholders, both within and outside of HCPS. Conducted by the National School Public Relations Association, the audit resulted in a total of 13 recommendations, which have been in various stages of implementation since 2008. The logo change was part of Recommendation 13: “Develop a comprehensive branding/marketing strategy” for Harford County Public Schools.
In response to questions about the logo change from The Dagger, the re-branding initiative was described by Teri Kranefeld, HCPS manager of communications, as follows:
“The re-branding initiative is not just about the actual logo or mark, it is about the brand promise and identity of the school system and the ability to invest in a comprehensive strategic marketing initiative in order to increase student performance by recruiting and retaining high quality staff, fostering parental involvement, and developing business partnerships; increase communication efficiency and effectiveness at both the school and school system levels; and increase pride and support for Harford County Public Schools.”
The current logo – a drawing of a ruler laying crosswise on an open book, encircled with the words “Harford County Public Schools” – drew negative feedback from stakeholders, the auditors said. Focus groups called the logo, “outdated”, “dusty”, and worse: some said the circle and crossbar/ruler sent a perverse “no books” message from the schools.
The auditors strongly recommended that a logo change be considered but warned against holding a contest or leaving the task to amateurs:
“The logo is an important component of the identity you are trying to build in the community and should be the result of a thoughtful process and skilled graphic artist.”
Accordingly, A. Bright Idea, a Bel Air advertising, public relations, and design firm was hired by HCPS at a cost of $16,000, which Kranefeld said was for brand research, brand strategy development, and style guide development, in addition to the logo concepts.
After more research, feedback was collected from additional stakeholder focus groups, which Kranefeld said were conducted by the firm at no extra cost, and two new logos were developed. Now, Superintendent Robert Tomback is asking for the public to weigh in on which design best depicts Harford County Public Schools.
Kranefeld said that Superintendent Tomback will review the public input and present his recommendation for approval by the school board at the next board business meeting, set for August 13, 2012.
Following board approval, Kranefeld said that materials with the new logo will be rotated in as the old supply is depleted, “in order to maintain a budget neutral roll-out.”
Below are the two new logo designs offered for public input. As always, comments are welcome on The Dagger, but please go to www.hcps.org to cast your vote.
Below is the original recommendation regarding the logo that was made in the January 2008 communications audit report by the National School Public Relations Association:
“Consider updating the district logo. As HCPS begins to focus on its key messages and revitalize its image, we recommend serious consideration be given to updating the district logo. Overwhelmingly, the focus group participants agreed that although it is valued for its historic quality, the logo does not reflect education in the 21st Century. Many focus group participants noted that the ruler and book circular design implies a “no books” message.
A new graphic look can often serve to announce a new era, garner attention and reenergize communications. A positioning statement or slogan should be incorporated into the logo design as well. Both the design and the positioning statement should clearly indicate that HCPS is about children and education. In our review of materials, we found several different positioning statements in use. “Every Kid Counts” along with a graphic of children is used on some materials, but not on others. The HCPS logo includes the phrase “Serving Youth.” The HCPS vision includes the phrase “Educating Everyone Takes Everyone.” A carefully developed positioning statement would clarify one, overarching message that represents HCPS, both for the present and future.
It is helpful to implement standards for incorporating the district logo and positioning statement on all publications (district and school). This can help to ensure that nothing is produced without consistent branding messages and graphic elements in place. For example, not all school newsletters clearly branded the school as belonging to HCPS. All newsletter banners should display the district logo and clearly indicate the school’s district relationship.
Some districts create a stylebook that provides schools and departments with information and guidelines on the use of the logo and positioning statement, graphic design tips, and writing style and punctuation. It is also important to extend this graphic brand image to the web site, again making sure that there are common elements that help the reader make the connection to HCPS.
Note: We strongly recommend against holding a contest to design a new logo. The logo is an important component of the identity you are trying to build in the community and should be the result of a thoughtful process and skilled graphic artist.”