Please click here to read an open letter to the Williston Northampton community by Traci Wolfe, director of communications.
Each time Physical Plant wants to use a new decal with the Williston Northampton School seal—for a sign, a building, or on the side of a van—Barb Shepard, the administrative assistant, must first sit down and peel tiny pieces of sticker from around every tiny, wavy line.
For five years, the athletic department has worked hard to make uniforms, coaching wear, and travel suits consistent, but Mark Conroy, director of athletics, has noticed that teams still purchase shirts and other gear in odd colors, with designs entirely their own.
When Matt Spearing, director of student activities, ordered rally towels recently, he asked the supplier to come up with ideas for what a print of the school’s mascot might look like. He didn’t have any other image to base it on, he said.
No matter where you looked on campus, one thing was clear, the Williston logo was in need of a makeover.
While the school has always had graphic identity—the visual way Williston is represented on everything from minibuses to business cards—there was little consensus around how that image was used. The seal, designed 25 years ago to imitate the wavy lines of a woodcut, was sometimes used together with the school name, but more often without. In digital form, the seal appeared blurry or too condensed.
“Campus identity is generally all over the place,” said Traci Wolfe, director of communications. “We have not had a really active style guide that we’ve been able to enforce in a long time. The last time we really looked at our visual identity was in 1988.”
Spurred by the lack of consistency, and need for a style guide, Wolfe hired the Boston-based team of Stoltze Design in April 2012 and asked them to create a new graphic identity. To lay the groundwork for their design, and get a sense of the community, the Stoltze team spent the next several months conducting interviews with alumni, parents, faculty, and students.
Those interviews, coupled with research on what prospective students said about Williston, allowed Stoltze to identify four central ideals of the school: a diverse, open, healthy culture; an exceptional location; a balanced, robust program; and a student-centered community.
The Stoltze team then used further input from the Williston faculty and staff to invent a logo that could embody the school’s history, mission, and ideals.
The new design—a green shield emblazoned with a custom blue WN letterform—was unveiled to the full faculty at the end of January. A secondary logo, with the shield in blue and the WN in white, was also included, as were the Williston blue and Williston green colors.
“The shield shape, color palette, and founding date are nods to Williston’s rich past,” the Stoltze team explained in their presentation. “The formality of these elements reflects the school’s balanced and robust program, as well as its commitment to excellence and high achievement.”
Head of School Robert W. Hill noted that when the fresh, new logo was unveiled to the school’s Board of Trustees a week later, there were gasps and applause around the room.
“I think what the shield does is tie us to our long traditions,” he said. “It does so in such a way that is very modern, very contemporary, very recognizable, and very true to us.”
The logo, together with a set of guidelines on how to use it, will now become the standard across all print and digital materials that the Communications Office, and the school, produces, said Wolfe. In order to keep financial costs in check, the logo will be rolled out gradually over the next three years in some areas, such as the athletic department, she said.
“We want to do this as makes sense for our budget,” Wolfe said, adding that Stoltze is also working on a new Wildcat design that will debut in the next month. A cleaner version of the school seal will continue to be used on formal documents, such as diplomas and contracts, she said.
Chris Dietrich, director of admissions, applauded the effort, noting that Williston’s former seal was cluttered, visually confusing, and wasn’t standing out for those trying to identify the school. The new visual identity, he said, brings a fresh, modern look that will give Williston a strong visual presence.
“People don’t get lost in the wavy mountains,” he said. “There’s less clutter to it and it gets people right to Williston.”