Since its founding in 1800, Middlebury College has counted itself among the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in New England. Nestled in the Green Mountains of Vermont, the college is known for its well-rounded liberal arts curriculum, its language study programs, and its emphasis on a global perspective.
But Middlebury is much more than the college. In addition to the undergraduate liberal arts programs, there’s also a network of study abroad programs, an environmental school, a summer Masters program in English, a renowned writers’ conference, and summer language schools. Middlebury also acquired the Monterey Institute of International Studies in Monterey, California in 2010.
To create an effective brand strategy and architecture for Middlebury, we had to ask ourselves: How do we discuss all of the various activities that Middlebury is involved in? How can we bring together all these moving parts into a cohesive brand identity?
Read more after the jump.
We began with research, fielding surveys and conducting focus groups with students, faculty, school leadership, and alumni from each of the different Middlebury programs. This elaborate process ultimately resulted in brand strategy with a focus on architecture, clarifying the relationship of the parts to the whole and ensuring that each unit operated with the right amount of autonomy and cohesion. This brand strategy and architecture was discussed and ultimately approved by the Middlebury Board of Trustees and school leadership, including the leadership of each of the various schools and programs.
The next step, after building consensus around the brand strategy, was to develop a visual identity system that reflected the brand architecture. The process involved changing the names of several units: it was decided that moving forward the name of every program should start with Middlebury: the Middlebury Language Schools, the Middlebury Bread Loaf School of English, and, most notably, the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey. These name changes brought all the programs under the same umbrella, making it clear that they are all essential parts of Middlebury.
To visually align the programs, our designers crafted a new institutional shield, a mark to be used by every program, clearly identifying Middlebury as one entity.
The shield combines essential elements of the Middlebury identity to create a unifying image that students, alumni, and faculty of multiple programs recognize. Wanting to capture both the strong academics and global consciousness essential to all Middlebury programs, we incorporated the open book from the Middlebury seal in the upper right quadrant and a globe in the upper left. An image of the iconic Old Chapel with the Bread Loaf Mountains in the background represents the school’s main campus, which holds so much meaning for so many generations of Middlebury alumni. At the bottom of the shield, the year of Middlebury’s founding serves as a reminder of the school’s long history of educational excellence.
For the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, we needed different scenery, something that students in Monterey would recognize as part of their Middlebury experience. Maintaining the shield design and the symbols of the school’s tradition of academic excellence and global education, we modified the MIIS logo to depict the iconic Segal building on the Monterey campus instead of Vermont’s Old Chapel. The year of the Institute’s founding, 1955, appears at the bottom of the shield.
Between the new visual identity system and multiple program name changes, the new brand strategy was guaranteed to raise some questions. Middlebury would need an easy way to 1) explain the rationale behind the changes, and 2) field questions and comments from multiple audiences. With the web design expertise of 2one5 Creative, we put together a dedicated microsite to launch Middlebury’s new brand identity and invite feedback.
For internal audiences, we delivered an identity manual outlining how to use the school names, logos, typefaces, and colors. Each school and program retains its individual style, but with a clear guidebook, they’re all on the same page, making it clear they’re all part of the Middlebury family.