In Depth: The Evergreen State College Signature System

Created a system of sub-logos, called signatures, for the school’s various divisions.

Duties

Logo design and presenting.

The Problem

When I joined up with The Evergreen State College, they were in the process of putting together their first ever officially recognized logo.

One of the long-term problems the new logo was to solve was to relieve the pressure of the designers creating individual logos for over seventy divisions around campus. Everyone from the masters programs to the HR department wanted their own logo to use on various materials, like letterheads, emails, and posters. In the end, a hodgepodge of conflicting styles weakened the school’s identity. On top of that, each new logo request meant spinning up a whole process to create the necessary graphics.

The Solution

To provide these kinds of bespoke graphics quickly and efficiently, I created a system that could easily accommodate the creation of new logos without a lot of fuss.

As the official logo design process was winding down when I was hired, I had only a little input in its design. Due to a number of contextual considerations, the logo itself is a system of three designs.

The official school logo.

  • The official, squarish logo, pictured here.
  • A variation of the logo that sits more horizontally.
  • A compact variation, used only on the web.
  • The first two of these also have versions with the location attached underneath.
Exploration of signature styles

An exploration of a few different styles for signatures, each of them ultimately unused. There are dozens more not pictured here. Zoom.

The Signature Design

The signatures reflect the proportions of the original logo design. The heights of the green areas are all equal, as are the heights of the blue areas. Zoom.

To create the system of sub-logos, which we dubbed “signatures”, I chose the second of our logo designs as the base. Those dimensions would work best in the contexts of letterheads and personal email signatures. From there, I examined the proportions of the letters and the line-spacing to create a signature that works harmoniously with the logo. I tried a number of variations with different positioning, proportions, and typefaces and the marketing team eventually settled on what you can now see at the top of this page.

Revisiting the Logo Design

From there, we realized that, again, we wanted the option of having a location included in the signature, but the existing proportions of the location line didn’t quite fit with the signatures. With the blessing of the original designer, I went back in and tweaked the proportions of the logo location to make a better fit. Not just with the new signature line, but also with the bare logo. Thus, the logo informed the design of the signature, which in return informed the design of the logo.

A comparison between the logo’s original location design, and the more proportional update after the signature style was established. Zoom.

A Signature of Success

The project was successful. I presented the new signature system in front of senior staff, including the school president, and got a full sign-off from all.

The new signatures have been rolling out steadily across the school’s materials, uniting all publications and other ephemera with a consistent identity. The process of making new signatures is a matter of replacing the words in a predefined template instead of creating a custom look and feel every time. Evergreen’s brand is now much more easily recognized, not the least because each division’s signature also contains the school’s logo.

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