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Johns Hopkins Deals with an Identity Crisis

12 Written by: | Tuesday, May 07, 2013 11:00am

hospital-s-removal-2

Last month, Johns Hopkins unveiled its brand-new logo. That may not sound like a big deal, but when you consider that the university comprises two dozen schools, research centers, and institutes, each with its own constituents and aesthetics, the task starts to seem quite a bit more complex.

The previous mishmash of logos didn't give an impression of institutional unity.

The previous mishmash of logos didn’t give an impression of institutional unity.

“When people hear Johns Hopkins, they think about medicine and lacrosse. That’s great, but we have a lot of other strengths, too,” says Glenn Bieler, vice president of communications at the university. According to Bieler, the previous mishmash of logos created the impression that the university didn’t have much of a sense of self. So Bieler and his team set out to come up with an updated look for Johns Hopkins — one that could work for each one of the school’s divisions, from SAIS to the APL to the Homewood campus.

redesign first iterationIt wasn’t an easy task; the logo had to be able to work on carpets, business cards, letterheads, and websites. It had to be flexible enough to be able to work for programs that had their own well-established “look” (for example, Peabody’s iconic cursive “P”). It had to say “excellence” in a way that would work for the medical school, the school of education, and the Center for Talented Youth. And it had to seem of a piece with the previous logo (pictured above).

jhu logo attempts Here are two initial attempts to incorporate the previous logo’s shield shape, along with the images of the book, the globe, the cross, and the checkerboard reference to the Maryland flag. But when these images were focus-grouped, the consensus was to nix the cross.

jhu logo boox

So the next iteration nixed the cross in favor of a bigger book. But what kind of book? Some early attempts were criticized for looking too much like a mustache or pair of eyebrows.

jhu logo color issues

Color was another issue. Blue is the color most associated with the medical school, while the undergrad colors are yellow and gold. But gold doesn’t always translate effectively to print, and too many colors looks cluttered. The team opted for a nice solid blue — the school’s mascot is the blue jay, after all.

jhu logo globes!

There are many ways to design a simple, gridded globe — which one looks best to you?

jhu logo the one on the bottom works best

Here are the three finalists the graphic design team came up with. The one on the bottom was the ultimate winner.

jhu logo schools and divisions

Instead of the chaos of colors, fonts, and logos, here’s Johns Hopkins’ new cohesive look. Aaah — look at that unity! How refreshing!

jhu logos other schools and divisions

The consistent color, font, and shape allows the schools and divisions that wanted to keep a part of their previous look to do so, while still making it clear that they’re part of the larger Johns Hopkins family.

jhu logos all of them

Here are all the logos, all together. One big family!

Of course, making the transition from old logo to new logo is much more tricky than just coming up with a look that pleases everyone. “We’re telling everyone, don’t throw out your business cards and letterhead. We’re trying to be good stewards of the environment!” Bieler says. “Initially, you’ll see the logo in places where the costs of making a change are minimal, like on websites. It’s going to take years before we see it everywhere throughout the university. And that’s fine.”

Leave a Reply

  • David B

    Wow, I actually really like this. Solves the problem elegantly.

  • Monica Moody Moore

    Thanks for walking us through the multiple iterations and decisions that were made. Nice!

  • Bluejay A&S '01

    I just don’t like this at all…looks like a logo Kaplan University or University of Phoenix would go for. I think it really make the Hopkins brand seem dumbed down and lacking in the history and tradition.

  • IEB

    to the author – were these pictures your own screenshots or were they taken from someone else’s? I think the very last picture is mine hahaha

  • Rachel Monroe

    the images were taken from Glenn Bieler’s YouTube presentation on the logo process, available here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SgCMI2t_49w

  • Mary Alice

    I love seeing the design process and decisions – great write up!

  • James Parsons (@jparsons_net)

    According to the YouTube video this information is based on, the official university seal is not “the previous logo” and is not being replaced.

    • Susan Dunn

      Here is the video:

      http://youtu.be/SgCMI2t_49w

      And here is the description of the video:

      “Glenn Bieler, Johns Hopkins’ vice president of communications, explains the university’s new identity initiative and logo in a slide presentation.”

    • Rachel Monroe

      Good point, James — it wasn’t technically the logo, but Bieler does point out that the university seal (which is what’s pictured) was used as a de facto logo on carpets, trash trucks, etc.; it’s now being supplemented by these new logos, and will only have a place on official university papers/diplomas etc. An important clarification!

  • Raymond

    I don’ like the new logo either. It lacks the beauty and elegance of original seal. As an old research university JHU deserves a more history rich logo. It’s much worse the mono color version of the original seal logo.

  • Luis Otazu

    What font is used in the new JHU “HOPKINS” logo?

  • Luis Otazu

    I love the direction Hopkins is taking with it’s brand. It’s clean, smart and a strong aesthetic value.



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