College’s Visual Identity Guidelines impact student organizations

The College of William and Mary’s 2014 Visual Identity Guidelines have begun to impact student organizations. Organizations must change their logos to abide by the guidelines. The style guide was released on Nov. 19, 2014 to unify the College’s brand image and to streamline all official logos and images of the College.

According to the College’s website, if an organization wishes to use the official university logo, university wordmark, the seal, the 1693 weathervane, the Crim Dell Bridge or the cypher as a way to show their affiliation with the College, they must appear as a separate and distinct visual entity. This is done in an effort to preserve the cypher — and other similar College branding items — as images owned by and associated with the College.

Associate Director of Design for Creative Services Justin Schoonmaker ’09 remarked on the importance of brand identity in today’s competitive landscape.

“I understand that people have an emotional attachment to visuals,” Schoonmaker said. “I understand that people want to have a unique feel to whatever organization or group that they are a part of. What I am a bigger believer in, however, is the power of the overarching, university brand. The fact of the matter is that the strength of any one unit’s brand on campus is more attached to the fact that they are a William and Mary entity than it is to the fact that they are an individual organization.”

In addition, several classic logos have either been removed completely, or their use has been highly scaled back. The College seal or the College crest, for example, are now saved exclusively for formal use, such as on diplomas.

However, the move to the Tribe script is not the only logo change for club sports. Many club sports and student organizations in general used to incorporate the College cypher in their logos, which is now prohibited. For example, the College rowing club previously maintained a logo of two oars crossed in front of the cypher image, a direct violation of the new Visual Identity Guidelines.

The image was most commonly printed on what the team calls “betting tees” — t-shirts that the team wears and traditionally gives to opposing teams who beat them in competition. The betting tees have depicted the cypher for years. There are an estimated 75 shirts left over since the change, and at about $8 apiece.

Correction: Vice President of University Relations Brian Whitson said that the College’s Web and Design team would be willing to be flexible and meet with student groups in order to ensure that apparel in stock does not go to waste.

“I do understand that the cypher is a very important William and Mary logo,” Katie Clements ’18, recording secretary for the College rowing team, said. “But I personally don’t think that putting oars behind it is defacing any school identity. It’s just making it our own.”

The College club rugby team also faced changes to their old logo, which depicted an old griffin, a crown and the letters “W&M RFC” across the bottom, standing for “W&M Rugby Football Club.” Several alumni members have the image tattooed on their shoulders or back.

“It transitioned slowly,” former Rugby President Aaron Skonecki ’16 said. “There were guidelines on the website that we could kind of pull from. That being said, I remember a couple of meetings where it was basically, ‘Use the guidelines that we said, can’t use anything else or you can get in trouble.’ From there, we kind of had to go figure it out ourselves. We tried our best.”

Skonecki also commented on the benefits of the College’s unified brand efforts, but wishes the College provided more support to student organizations throughout the transition.

“Truthfully, I think the single brand identity is probably good for the College as a whole,” Skonecki said. “That’s how it is with companies and jobs. That’s what real life is – it’s creating a brand … Club sports have a great outreach – we play colleges across Virginia, across Maryland – we have exposure to a lot of areas. I understand where the College is coming from completely. It probably does make sense that everyone is on the same page. That being said, and I’m not sure how feasible this is, but I wish the College would help out more with the transition.”

None of the College’s new official brand images contain “The College of” and this past weekend, the College changed its official Facebook name to “William & Mary.”

Correction: However, Whitson said that there is no plan to drop “the College of” from the school’s official name.

As you know, William & Mary is a university and it can be confusing for external audiences, particularly international audiences who are not familiar with W&M, to understand that we are full university when they see ‘College,'” Whitson said in an email. “But ‘The College of William & Mary’ remains our official name.”

Correction: The school’s editorial guide lists “William & Mary” as the preferred name in all but formal treatments and “the College of William & Mary” as school’s preferred name in formal treatments.

According to the College’s website, the only brand images that student organizations are free to use within their own logos are the official “W&M” artwork, the registered name “William & Mary,” and official university colors. Student organizations may not use the name “The College of William and Mary” in their logos or reference any of the College’s unique brand images.

Student Assembly President Yohance Whitaker ’16 commented on the SA’s progress towards complete compliance.

“Last year, the Student Assembly invested in branding materials to market our services to students,” Whitaker said in an email. “Each of those items is in compliance with university style rules. My team and I are in the process of updating Student Assembly’s social media presence. Our goal is to unveil a new Student Assembly page on the William & Mary website by the end of the semester. When set up our page will be in compliance with the university’s visual identity guidelines. Our other social media outlets will be updated accordingly. In fact, we have been working in conjunction with University Web & Design and Information Technology to achieve this goal.”

Many student groups, such as AMP, will not be effected by the changes, as their current logo, the AMP “splat,” does not reference the College’s name or brand images. However, for organizations like the Spotswood Society, whose logo contains the name “the College of William and Mary,” this creates a problem.

The Spotswood Society is an organization that provides student-led tours of the Sir Christopher Wren building and educates tourists about the College’s history. At this time, there has been no official push to change the Spotswood Society logo, but leadership for the organization remains concerned for the historic logo’s future, since the logo is currently not in compliance with the visual identity guidelines.

The logo, which has been in circulation for more than twenty years, features the entrance doors to the Sir Christopher Wren Building and two horseshoes, alluding to Spotswood’s leading of the 1716 Knights of the Golden Horseshoe Expedition. Because the organization is directly tied to an administrative office on campus and because the logo currently contains the College’s name, there are talks to overhaul the historically influenced logo.

Assistant Director for Historic Campus Kimberly Renner expressed the importance of branding on an administrative level but also expressed her fears for the unique identities of student organizations on campus that may get lost in the rebranding process.

“We do need a firm administrative brand, I get that from that perspective, but it concerns me because logos are symbolic; they’re meaningful to the organization,” Renner said.

Proctor for the Spotswood Society Gabriel Morey ’16 also expressed his concern for student organizations losing their identities during rebranding.

“I understand the importance of brand identity, but I think the problem is by trying to build this cohesive brand identity for the College, you’ll actually be hurting the Spotswood Society,” Morey said. “I wish there was more input. As a member of the society, I have a great affection for this logo. It is something of which I have always been proud. We are a historical society and we take great pride in the uniqueness of the history of the College of William and Mary. The logo is something that reflects our love of the history of the College, I think more so than a uniform brand would.”


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