Whitworth University, a private faith-based university in Spokane, WA, was struggling to compete against the “value” message of public schools. Despite a strong reputation for academic excellence and tradition, Whitworth found it difficult to tell a brand story that was distinctive and relevant to today’s student population. Their commitment to encouraging students to ask tough questions, search fearlessly for answers and shape their own perspectives wasn’t coming through. To boost admissions and increase diversity, we needed to reframe the Whitworth brand and express it through a powerful, differentiating visual and verbal language.
Robust qualitative and quantitative research revealed that Whitworth’s most compelling trait is the unique and surprising juxtapositions that create a life-changing educational experience. This led to a brand strategy built around the idea of being “Unexpected.” Whitworth’s new logo reflects this sense of discovery. The bold yet simple mark creates a U within the W, and represents the Holy Trinity as well as the iconic towering pines found on campus. A new visual language uses unique photography and interesting angles to create a look that is fresh and inclusive, yet memorable.
While it is too early for results, reframing Whitworth’s brand has re-energized faculty, staff and students. Whitworth’s leadership and marketing teams are using the branding tools we designed to create a curated set of hard-working materials and a more engaging and consistent visual presence. Internal teams feel confident in their ability to create brief narratives full of emotion, with a strong sense of place. We continue to support them in expanding their new photo library and are working with the School of Continuing Studies and graduate programs to extend the work into advertising and online communications.