They say never judge a book by its cover, but many instances arise when we cannot help but form an immediate impression of something simply from a brand or word mark representing that entity. At times we are judging a school district whose logo is a tired, disorganized, heterogeneous mix of ‘close enough’ logos created by various people throughout the years, each with their own interpretation of what the printed representation of the school’s mascot should look like. When this is the case, our SHP team is often tasked with developing new, refreshed logos for our clients in the education sector, and we pride ourselves in offering a customized approach to meet their needs.
Recently, we worked with Deer Park Community City Schools to create a new logo that personified the district and community as a whole. The school district, staff and community expressed a need for consistent messaging after realizing the district had been using approximately 12 wildcat images, seven Deer Park logos, and three paw prints as its logo. This overabundance caused confusion and inaccuracies in conveying what the Deer Park community and school was known for.
Our approach for the new Deer Park Wildcat entailed an early, upfront creative process. A rebranding committee was formed from volunteers in the Deer Park community—board members, parents, faculty and coaches. Early on in our re-branding meetings we also found that the residents of the small, one square mile-wide community of Deer Park all shared similar values, and were adamant that the new Wildcat logo embodied the district’s forward-thinking ways while honoring the storied traditions that brought them to where they are now. When asked to compare Deer Park to a car company, the committee unanimously chose Buick as their brand counterpart. Both entities symbolized a long storied tradition, while aiming to be progressive and modern.
With the Deer Park Wildcat also representing the school district outside its own community, we also had to consider the new Wildcat’s placement among the school districts with whom they compete. After creating brand boards of all the fellow schools in the Cincinnati Hills League, we charged the committee to plot their ‘competitors’ brands against Deer Park’s current Wildcat on a positioning map.
Since for many this was their first experience thinking critically about brand messaging and meaning, in later re-branding committees we held “Branding 101” lessons in which they learned about colors, typefaces, and print ability, among many other aspects. These sessions were the next step to get them thinking about how their competitive analysis and how their new Wildcat would fit in this league.
Because we desired to gather a wide breadth of logo samples in the most economical way possible, we turned to an online creative process where people submit ideas and vote for their favorites. This process would garner hundreds of designs for Deer Park in a matter of days and allow the committee to give instant feedback for quicker improvement, bringing fresh perspectives from countries all over the world. With this method we made better use of the district’s time and money and also learned more about what does and does not in one week instead of in months as with a typical design process. Eventually, we chose three design finalists, surveyed the community to find their favorite and worked to make it our own.
Though modern, the new logo still reflects the legacy and tradition of the past. With complementary shades of scarlet and gray, we further developed a logo that set Deer Park apart from other schools in the area. Interchangeable colors, fonts and a logo were developed from the committee’s desire for a ‘kit-of-parts’ approach in which the Wildcat, badges, word marks and colors can be mixed and matched for various uses. With a dynamic new logo package for both academic, athletic and school support use, the result helped build a sense of community, and the new look is paying off. The district is selling more merchandise, school spirit is on the rise and the revitalized image is helping Deer Park share their story—and pride—throughout the greater Cincinnati area.
The new Wildcat also served as a springboard for excitement and new ideas as the school set out to replace the dated and worn gymnasium floor. While the board’s original plan was to simply feature a standard gym floor design with the new logo simply replacing the old, the excitement of a completely new look led to a cutting edge, modern design with input from various groups. The new gym floor as well as the coinciding renovations of the locker rooms and new Career Academy spaces represents Deer Park’s bright future while honoring its storied past.