I’m certainly not one to pat myself on the back – far from it. So I’ll applaud others who worked really hard on a project and who should get some positive karma for the great work done in my former position as Director of Marketing and Communications at OCAD University along with the design team at Bruce Mau Design (BMD) who did the consultation and design. Prior to us taking this project I insisted to the steering committee and the project team that it was not enough that the new design be ‘best in class’ (competing with other universities) but really, the identity had to stand shoulder to shoulder with other iconic brands: mission accomplished.
My Marketing & Communications team at OCAD University and BMD worked collaboratively to build a process of engagement and execute the consultation. It was the most collaborative process I’ve been through and managed in my career and while we had some bumps along the way, the end result was one that represents the university well. I would also highlight the extraordinary counsel provided to me by Mary Jane Braide, one of the finest strategists and branding consultants I have ever had the pleasure of working with. The work and feedback can be seen here in some previous posts.
I’m very pleased that the long road resulted in positive accolades – not the least of which was being named by both Armin Vit’s Under Consideration graphic design blog as one of best identity’s for 2011. As well, Fast Company heralded the resulting identity as one of their top ten favourite ‘branding projects‘ for 2011, where the OCADU project rests amongst industry titans such as PwC, United Airlines, and Starbucks.
The 18-months of work (blood, sweat and some tears) we put in together as a small, cohesive team really paid off with an outstanding identity. I believe the end product is one that perfectly represents the institution with the paradoxical nature of the design platform. In my view, BMD has created an identity that performs a bit of a miracle, and not one I’d ever want to recreate. It is the ‘pleaser’ identity – one that attempts very well to appease all comers with both structure and whimsy.
Each and every stakeholder consultation we sat through concluded with a summary thought – the place is wrought with paradox and contrast and from a design standpoint that was going to be difficult or nearly impossible to capture. Old vs new; art vs design, the list grew with each consultation. In the end, the design helped embrace the volume of feedback and provided a strong unifying ‘hero icon’ for the brand. The hard lines of the ‘frame’ representative of the intense structure, discipline and historic nature of the organization and its iconic architecture, while the every change ‘face’ of student artwork bring forward the creative genius of the study body (and by design, opportunities for inclusion of alumni, faculty and other stakeholders). Subtly, it also represents the ever-changing, schizophrenic nature of the place.
This new identity has become the foundational element for a 135 year-old institution. One of varying persona’s (the institutions name literally changed with every new generation) to its final resting place as a bona fide university among the ranks of the best in the country and within its category in the world. That may be putting too fine a point on it but ultimately, the work undertaken in creating a new identity for the university has paid off with some great accolades that I’m proud what my team accomplished, I’m pleased with the process that was developed, the extent of consultation and ultimately that the product met the needs of the institution and exceeded the demands of the complex stakeholder matrix.