President Hanno spoke with the Design II class this Tuesday to talk about the misunderstandings, details and controversy of Wheaton’s rebranding effort. The talk had information about the process of creating the new Wheaton wordmark and the cost of the rebranding effort.
“At the end of the day, it’s a business decision,” President Hanno said about the rebranding effort. Hanno said one intention of the effort is effectively to get more prospective students interested, get more applications and lower the acceptance rate so Wheaton can stand out.
The rebranding effort was approved in February of 2016 and since then the college administration hired a marketing firm to do survey research. According to the Wheaton website the college got input from over 1,500 members of the Wheaton community as well as almost 1,200 prospective students to guide them in their rebranding efforts. Wheaton administration also hired Minelli Inc. to create the wordmark that was unveiled earlier this month.
“It costs nothing out of normal operating funds,“ said President Hanno when asked about how much hiring Minelli Inc. and a marketing firm was. “We went to the [board of] trustees and said that we need to make an investment in these kinds of things… [the cost] was in six figures, there’s no question about that. It was fully supported by funds outside of the normal operating cost.” Hanno also said that one individual donor supplied most of the necessary funds.
According to the vice president for marketing and communications Gene Begin, the school’s new wordmark was created largely to represent Wheaton more accurately. The results of the marketing firm’s outreach showed that the Wheaton community best identified the college with three adjectives: forward-thinking, inclusive and personal. The newly designed wordmark was meant to represent the values of Wheaton, “Design when it’s applied well can move people,” Mark Minelli of Minelli Inc. said. “It can be about something powerful and real.”
Administration also expressed a desire for the wordmark to be visually appealing and readable online and move away from the serif font that most New England schools have. “Simplicity is more modern than anything,” Begin said. “[The font] must represent well and consistently [across all platforms].” While some students want the tradition that comes with a New England college, Minelli said, “there is some tension there, if you’re just about New England, you’re not always about accessibility.”
The new wordmark also indicates the location of Wheaton as being in Massachusetts, thus differentiating the college from the other (Illinois) Wheaton’s brand. “it’s not about divorcing ourself from the other Wheaton College but I don’t think people realize how unfortunately intertwined we are,” Hanno said, “[however] people all over the world think Massachusetts equals higher education.” Hanno also said that the Wheatons’ typefaces are so similar that there is constant confusion between the two colleges, including fire alarm units at our Wheaton being wrongly inscribed with the other Wheaton’s wordmark due to the similarity.
Minelli engaged with students about the designing process, especially Emma-Kate Metsker ’17 who was one student that questioned the longevity, practicalities and technicalities of the design.
Hanno, Minelli and Begin ended the discussion with some clarifications about what is changing and concerning the online petition that was made to ‘reassess the logo’. The petition has over 1,000 online signatures but appears to misunderstand what exactly Wheaton is changing. The petition asks that the school collectively “reassess the logo.” But according to Hanno and the Wheaton website both the Wheaton athletic logo and its historic peach-tree seal are remaining as part of the school’s identity. Many students may have been mislead to believe from the petition’s images that the historic seal is being replaced, but that is not the case. What has been changed is Wheaton’s wordmark.