Someone posted a comment a while ago about the new school logo. They were not pleased. I have been holding off my review in hope that some hidden value would reveal itself after repeated consideration. It has not gotten better – and the more I have researched the process that produced the new logo, the more I see it as emblematic of the board’s “let the experts make the choices” rigidity (while at the same time using the whim of one member as the real deciding factor). It also highlights how the board doesn’t let the people who have to live with those choices have any say, or recourse to change those poor choices.
How to do a school logo right.
The Dispatch wrote a story about the new logo, and they mention that Whitehall schools had just gone through a similar re-design process. The output of that process (done by firm for $13K, half of the cost Grandview was charged), is a lesson in how to do a logo right.
The new Whitehall logo is mostly black and white, but the accent color provides good separation of the elements. The design is legible from a distance. The text on the logo are inspiring words without being too long and wordy. The animal mascot is crisp and will look good on sportswear. The best part of the logo is the clear, bold lettering, with a hint of relief that makes it pop off the page.
After the jump, illustration of how Grandview’s new logo fails in so many ways.
The school logo will be used on many locations outside text on paper (or on a screen). The specifications for the logo required that it not be used at a size smaller than one inch. Here in the real world, logos are visible from long distances, and at many screen sizes. Designers take this into account by producing logos that are legible even at small sizes. The Whitehall logo loses the motto lettering when seen from long distance, but the school initials are still clear. Grandview’s new logo collapses into an illegible mess at anything more than standard reading distance.
Tangled up letters with no separation
I tried to find examples of logos that use the same interlocked letters that are on the new Grandview design. Doing searches for “interlocked logo lettering” or “stacked logo lettering” produced many examples, but almost nothing that has the same bare letters stacked with no separation. Hint – if you can’t find designers using the method of letter stacking you are attempting, you are probably doing something wrong.
Chaining the letters is used most often to stack letters, this is the use of some 3 dimensional hints that imply the letters are interlocking, and have parts in front or behind the other letter, as a physical chain has some parts that are on top and some behind. There are no clues in the new Grandview logo that tell you which letter is on top, and which is behind.
Related, there is also no way to know which letter in the new logo is first, and which is last. Is that at G followed by an H, or the other way? Other logos with stacked designs have hints, like one letter more to the left, so you know the correct sequence. Others use size, or color as a sequence hint. There are no clues in the new Grandview logo.
At the same time the board was deciding for us what the logo would be, they chose a new tagline to be used with the logo, “A Small place to Dream Big”. Let’s deconstruct that line.
Grandview is called a small place. Ok, that’s honest, we have the smallest school in the county.
It is a place to dream big. This implies that big things are better, it would not be inspiring to say “a place to dream small”.
Therefore – big things are better. But we just said we are a small place. There are negative connotations to saying a person “is coming from a small place”, that implies lack of large worldviews and has small town prejudice. Maybe the whole “little place” should have been left out – wouldn’t “A Place to Dream Big” have conveyed the same meaning without drawing attention to the smallness?
Another issue with the “Small Place” in the tagline, small school districts don’t have the money to build big fancy schools, with expensive facilities. I would have though the board would not have wanted to focus on the small size of the district, especially when they are furiously working to get new school buildings built.
How the logo was chosen
I don’t have insider information about who made the choice of the new logo, but the Brand Guidelines document (a Pdf at the bottom of the Brand Standards page on the school website) gives us a big clue.
The cast metal plaque on the gate to the football field was noticed by someone, most likely a school board member. Instead of recoiling in horror at the moshed together GHAA lettering, this person thought it was a good thing to copy. The final school logo is directly taken from this plaque, it uses the same antique signboard frame, and although the design firm cleaned the letters a little (and removed the two A’s), they still have the same stacked letters with no clues to sequence or 3D order separation.
By the way, take some time to read that Brand Guidelines Pdf. It is a prime example of how to spend lots of time and money spinning buzzwords, to no effect. The document tries so hard to give meaning to the logo, calling it a “stamp of excellence”. The more truthful description of the logo is “we saw something old while looking around the school, and copied it”.
The board has decided
The final decision on the new logo was made by the school board. I can find no record of any meetings to present choices before the community and take votes on the design – you take what is given. And if you don’t like it – tough. The board will ignore any parent group that complains about the obvious deficiencies in the logo, because listening to complaints is not the way it is done here in Grandview.
Maybe the new logo IS representative of the school. Poor choices – and no complaints allowed.
(Below is the original post from a reader who has issues with the new logo.)
Is there anybody out there who likes the new Grandview Schools “logo”? I find it to be very amateurish. The weight of the lines used in the G H logo is too thin. It implies weakness, not strength. Kind of a lack of resolve.
And why the two horizontal lines for the cross bar in the H?
I wonder how much money we spent on this lovely document:
(Link to the Brand Standards page, the doc is at the bottom)
It’s quite the piece of work. Check out page 2.3:
• Our tone is warm without being overly emotional
• Our tone is intelligent without being overly intellectual
• We speak with a degree of formality without being stuffy or exclusive
• We state things in the positive, never in the negative
• We draw from the past, speak in the present, and are always forward-thinking
• We write with the intent of motivating, helping our students and the community we serve explore passions, develop purpose, and unlock potential
And from page 2.4:
It goes without saying that everything we write is spelled correctly and
Speaking of grammar, I count 7 grammatical errors on page 2.3. I’m pretty sure you’re still supposed to put a period at the end of a sentence.
Our school district is a joke folks, and we’re paying for it!
One final complaint – the choice of colors used by the school for the mailing list system is just so bad. The whole thing is in a black box. It has a gray title bar, followed by slightly less gray main message text box. Nothing sets off black text like dark grey background! I feel like I’m receiving a message from a funeral home when I read these emails.