East Side House Settlement in the South Bronx is know for its accomplishments in education, from preschool all the way through college prep. Particularly successful are its high schools with record-breaking numbers of graduates that continue on to college. One of their newest endeavors is Haven Charter High School (HCHS) with the mission to fast track students interested in healthcare into the job market and/or further education in healthcare fields. Here is the the branding story behind it.
Branding for educational institutions — public, private, grade schools, high schools, and higher education — no longer relies on stodgy emblems and seals to gain legitimacy. Many school trademarks that once claimed association to royal coats of arms or government stamps of approval are slowly, but surely, being replaced by more contemporary education symbols.
To initiate this branding project, a competitive review was created to discover how other charter schools and specialized schools approached their identities. The results exposed a broad spectrum of very crude and equally sophisticated solutions.
It was noted that many of the surveyed schools were very creative in their choice of symbols and use of color. Thus began my exploration of concepts to equal or exceed what was already represented in school branding. This exploratory stage is, without question, the most rewarding aspect of brand development and makes or breaks the success of a future brand:
Proposed curriculum for HCHS is comprised of very rigorous medical science in conjunction with hands-on experience, and East Side House Settlement did not shy away from symbols depicting medicine, testing, and treatment. In fact, they encouraged it. Red, which is associated to blood and phlebotomy, was generously used as were droplets that symbolize blood and life. The Caduceus — the medical snake staff — was explored and combined with typographical monographs. I also introduced a hawk symbol. Interestingly, hawks are indigenous to the Bronx and important predators that eat rats and thus minimize disease born by them in the absence of other predators, driven out by human development. It did not hurt that a hawk would serve as a powerful mascot for the school’s extracurricular activities.
In the end, the chosen solution was the most esoteric of the presented concepts: the EKG graph line crudely spelling out the school’s initials shown at the top of this blog entry. The response from the East Side House HCHS team was that its uniqueness combined with its ability to convey the schools primary education purpose made it the ideal choice.
Three visuals are shown for each brand concept: a standalone brand image, its application on a stationery kit, and representation on a wearable or website. Here are the concepts shown over two presentations: