The messy branding issues that have plagued Keene State College in the academic year of 2011-2012 continue to frustrate many students, including graphic design majors. However, the media relations office claims KSC’s branding is working. Media Relations manager for KSC Kelly Ricaurte said she believes the $100,000 branding cost for the college’s new “Owl” design and the “Wisdom to Make a Difference” slogan are bringing in money and attention. “It was an expensive process, but it’s working,” Ricaurte said. Although the college does employ a variety of graphic design artists such as Lynn Roman and Laura Borden, Ricaurte and the college ultimately decided to go with branding firm Mind Power to enhance the college’s image. From focus groups to intense summer meetings, Ricaurte and others eventually became satisfied over the imagery and solutions that Mind Power came up with. Taking nothing away from the college’s wide variety of graphic design majors, Ricaurte said, “The graphic design students are tremendously talented, but we really wanted a fresh perspective from an outside company.” Much of the hustle and bustle, Ricaurte said, was due to the, “strict deadline to secure the owl logo so the gym floor could be redone,” a move that cost an estimated $400,000. Graphic design majors, however, were not happy at the beginning of the year, with some saying they felt they were almost being scoffed at. KSC graphic design major Sam Pratt said, “They should have used us. I don’t know how much it cost, but we definitely could have came up with something better and for free.”
The controversial owl logo was decided on by a number of focus groups and brainstorming groups that met over the summer of 2011. Although Ricaurte said that the focus groups were made of alumni, faculty, students and members of Mind Power, no student submissions made it into the actual branding of the art for KSC. The new slogan and owl were both implemented in July of 2011 when the college invited students to vote on two different designs of the new owl. The only difference between the two was the direction the head was facing. Much of the heat came back in the early comings of the year when results of the survey showed a disappointment in the new owl logo, according to some students.
Recent KSC graduate Connor Morris said, “They gave us those two dumb options of an owl looking straight ahead and the same owl looking to the left. I know they think we’re dumb and maybe wouldn’t notice but come on.” Relating to the same owl logo graphic design major Chris Jennerjohn said, “We hate it. The college outsourced and paid other people to design a brand that is mediocre when they have an entire department full of dedicated students who would jump at the chance to give back to this school. They tried to homogenize this school.”
But Ricaurte said, “Keene State has seen a huge upsurge in applications and recognition from corporations and private funders since the implementation of the new logo and slogan.” She believes much of this can be attributed to KSC’s new cohesive image. “Before there were too many takes on what KSC should be and what we should look like. Now we truly are a solvent image.”
Senior graphic design major Sam Baker-Salmon said, “We can design some really awesome images, and they never even asked us when they should have.”
Ricaurte, however, said she believes that the $100,000 price tag of branding the school and under the unifying images of the new owl and catch phrase is worth it. “Typically it costs about a million dollars for a school or corporation to be branded like this. It’s truly giving voice to who we are,” Ricaurte said. The full new tag line for Keene State College, marketed by Mind Power now reads, “Most colleges prepare students to enter the world, Keene State College prepares our students to change the world. Wisdom to make a difference.” Ricaurte also offered that the entire branding process only cost the school around $100,000. Much of the attention that KSC is now receiving is due to the branding efforts and unified imagery the college now has to offer, in terms of attracting donors and funders from corporations and other institutions. While some graphic design majors may feel as if their own college has turned their backs on them, they may be able to take comfort in knowing the college is indeed growing.
Sam Pratt also said, “Look, we’re one of the hardest working majors on campus and if the college needed something, they definitely should have approached us. We would have loved to work on something for the school and even to put that on our resume that we worked toward the branding of our own college.”
Cam King can be contacted at