School’s out

Gary Neale

I was recently approached by my sons headteacher in the school playground and asked if I would help them with updating their school logo.

Selfishly, I jumped at the chance for my children to set off for school wearing uniform with dad’s logo on it.

This was also my opportunity to make up for not baking all those cakes on charity days and not volunteering for helping guide excitable children round a castle ruin in the depths of winter.

After asking for a brief and going through some of the children’s own artwork ideas, I set off with the task of breathing new life into a tired and somewhat confusing old school logo. The resulting work was presented as ‘areas of thought’ to get the school thinking about directions they wanted to pursue.

How difficult could this be compared to the day job?

A few days later, I was on the school run and was met in the playground by a visibly shaken headmistress.

Now our HM doesn’t get knocked off her stride easily. Trust me, though the exterior protrudes grace there is a hardness and resilience that comes with being the schools captain and I have seen her cut down an entire class in a nano second for stepping out of line.

Her distress was caused by the unfamiliarity of the situation. Miss had thought that updating the logo would be a simple, delightful afternoon romp. Instead she was visibly burdened by conflicting opinion and the need to satisfy different audiences.

The point I am trying to make is that it doesn’t matter whether it is a global brand development or a pro-Bono school project the needs are the same.

You still have different stakeholders to satisfy and your client needs help not just with conceptual thinking but how you go about taking everyone along the journey with you.

I reassured my head mistress that this is a typical reaction to the initial ideas and the start of a new piece of work and I would work with her every step of the way to ensure the ideas as they developed took into account the hopes, dreams and concerns of her audience.

A few weeks later we are further down the track and having conducted a session in school with Governors and parents we are now all heading in the same direction – to identity utopia.

Part of the issue is checking people’s idea of what a logo can do. I had a list of about ten requirements along with a ‘just ask your boys, they are the audience!’

It is my opinion that whilst a logo can communicate the school (or companies) values to a point, you need to consider all of the ‘touchpoints’ for it to become a true identity. You need to go deeper and part of that journey is looking at yourself and agreeing on how these come out visually.

From ‘word of mouth’ to a ‘printed prospectus’, the logo is seen and not seen in so many different contexts. Your knowledge and understanding of the school naturally comes from different experiences.

So the logo should never be seen in isolation. It’s values should be supported consistently through the tone of the writing, the ‘attitude’ of consistent meaningful imagery and the enthusiasm and knowledge of the teachers, governors and parents alike. Only then do you begin to forge a reputation and gain a true identity.

Next term the children will be pulling on their school jumpers and hopefully there will be a new badge emblazoned on it. One that I hope everyone is proud of and gets behind it – I know I will as I’ll be washing them.

Gary Neale is head of design and would be happy to discuss any identity needs for your company. To find out more about MHP Design and the work that we do, please contact and see our Bēhance page.