Johns Hopkins Deals with an Identity Crisis
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.
“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.
It 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).
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.
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.
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.
There are many ways to design a simple, gridded globe — which one looks best to you?
Here are the three finalists the graphic design team came up with. The one on the bottom was the ultimate winner.
Instead of the chaos of colors, fonts, and logos, here’s Johns Hopkins’ new cohesive look. Aaah — look at that unity! How refreshing!
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.
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.”