• Transform magazine
  • August 15, 2020


Big tree, green rebrand for Big Green and Dartmouth College

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Nestled among the pines in a snowy, green corner of New Hampshire, Dartmouth College educates some of the US’ brightest students. Part of the Ivy League, Dartmouth’s national and international reputation is supported by a brand linked closely to its location. Even its sporting teams, known as the Big Green, draw inspiration from the New Hampshire forests in which the college is situated.

Working with New York agency OCD, Dartmouth unveiled a new brand on 21 January that furthers deploys the college’s natural and educational assets throughout a refreshed – yet still very green – visual system. Affectionately known as 'the college on the hill,' Dartmouth's leafy and centralised campus runs alongside the Connecticut river and includes a Dartmouth-owned ski area, and some of its undergraduate commencement traditions involve pine boughs. This connection to its environment has influenced the new brand rather deeply.

But, the objectives were to unify the university under a single, modern system that is capable of representing Dartmouth across all of the required touchpoints. “Dartmouth is recognised around the world as one of the great institutions of higher education, and we must have a clear, consistent brand identity,” says college president Phil Hanlon. “It is essential that we speak with one bold voice.” That ethos is echoed by vice president for communications Justin Anderson who says the new identity is consistent and is capable of putting Dartmouth’s best face forward across digital communications.

The new identity takes elements from the previous system – like the ‘D’ and ‘lone pine’ logos – and reinterprets them for a modern audience. The result is clean, unified and still authoritative enough to represent one of the world’s best universities. The most obvious change is the wordmark, which is deployed in all caps in a slab serif.

“Dartmouth is recognised around the world as one of the great institutions of higher education, and we must have a clear, consistent brand identity. It is essential that we speak with one bold voice.”

The branding guidelines say, “The Dartmouth insignias have a history as rich and intricate as the college itself. They have evolved over the years to maintain relevance and better illustrate Dartmouth’s values. The Dartmouth Pine (or D-Pine) is the newest addition to the brand family – created with the intention of honouring Dartmouth’s legacy while looking forward to what the future brings.”

The typeface has been custom designed as well. It draws inspiration from former Hanover, New Hampshire resident, typeface designer Rudolph Ruzicka. The team at OCD used his handcrafted type design from the Dartmouth Medal as the basis for the new type family, Dartmouth Ruzicka. The typeface allows the university to align all of its sub-brands as one cohesive family.

The colour palette still relies heavily on green, but expands to embrace both the classic ‘Dartmouth green’ and a darker, complementary forest green. Other colours reflect those found in and around the campus, with the red and orange variants paying homage to the annual bonfire held at Dartmouth’s homecoming weekend. The system is applied throughout all the college's touchpoints, including individual schools, merchandise, prospectuses and digital applications.

The challenge for university rebrands is always in how it is received by a vast network of stakeholders from students to alumni to business partners and affiliates. As expected with any university, the initial response on social is often negative. The criticism that has emerged is largely focused on the 'D-pine' logo, particularly as the college has chosen to cease the use of its shield emblem. With a modern approach, there is little room for the shield's traditional design, but among Ivies, Dartmouth may be alone in its exclusive use of modern designs. But, there is lacking the kind of unified petitioning against the rebrand of the kind which the University of California experienced in 2013.

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