Current SMMUSD logo
Current SMMUSD logo

SMMUSD HDQTRS — The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is recruiting volunteer graphic design experts to serve on a judging panel to develop an updated logo and branding strategy for the district.

The project is expected to launch in fall 2013 and end in March 2014.

Robin Gee, public information and cable TV manager for City Hall, is working with Superintendent Sandra Lyon to coordinate the volunteer driven project. It is based on the efforts of the Palo Alto Art Center to redesign their own logo, Gee said.

In the summer of 2012 the Palo Alto Art Center, a nonprofit organization owned and operated by the city of Palo Alto, Calif., put out a call for submissions to redesign their logo while the center underwent major renovations, said Karen Kienzle, the center’s director. More than 200 community members, ranging from young and old, submitted entries thanks in part to outreach efforts both in-person and through social media, as well as the incentive to exhibit all entries at the grand re-opening, Kienzle added.

“Logos are something that people are really passionate about,” Kienzle said.

Fabian Geyrhalter, founder and principal of the local branding consultancy Finien, said that branding for any organization serves the key roles of establishing an emotional connection with an audience and conveying the group’s mission where the title falls through.

Gee explained that the underlying motivation behind the district project was to find a creative way to get good quality branding while also allowing for community involvement, especially given the number of artists and marketing experts in the area.

“We hope this project will capture the imagination of the city,” Gee said.

Everyone is invited to submit concepts for consideration. The volunteer panel of design experts will both judge the entries and be responsible for refining selected concepts for further evaluation.

The fact that it is a community project with input from multiple sources will further complicate the decision-making process, Geyrhalter said.

Linda Gross, executive director of the Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation, said that the project is an important endeavor given the lack of an official or consistent logo used across the district for the last several years.

Gross explained that with different schools and district members communicating with various constituents, it is necessary to have some uniform branding on district communications.

“With any smart organization you want your audience to know who the message is coming from,” Gross said.

A uniform branding strategy would also facilitate public information communications with City Hall as well, which highly supports the district, Gee said.

Geyrhalter said that creating a brand for a district of 16 schools will prove challenging in terms of accurately representing each school as well as the over-arching district.

Though the conceptualizing process will be led by volunteers, Geyrhalter explained that if all district and school-specific documentation is updated with the new brand, he expects push-back from community members once the price tag is rung up.

Those interested in serving on the judging panel should have expertise in logo design and branding.

Kienzle said that their own panel of design jurors provided a much needed perspective on their project by bringing up concerns such as how the logo would look in different sizes and in black and white versus color.

Applications to serve on the panel are due no later than Aug. 1 and should include a resume or summary of qualifications, a link to an online portfolio or sample portfolio pieces and a statement of interest for participation.

The panel is expected to be announced by Aug. 23.

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