The Mount Washington School
My PTO (nope, not that PTO)
A bit of history.
The Mount Washington School is located in the northern section of Baltimore city in a community noted for its politically and culturally active members as well as rich culture and history dating back to before the Civil War.
The story of the Mount Washington School began in September 1867.
Let's talk about the PTO.
In an effort to be good parents and members of the new school that our children were attending, my wife decided that she should join the PTO. I didn't have an idea of what this meant, or what it would mean for me personally, but I knew it was a great opportunity to meet other parents and put our finger on the pulse of what was happening at our kids school.
I had never heard of this word, and if I'm being honest, up until about 3 minutes ago when I googled it, I thought that my wife had invented it. Apparently, it has a negative connotation- and that's news to me! My voluntold story goes as follows:
My wife goes to her first PTO meeting (ever) where it is discussed that new swag is needed at the school. Somewhere during this conversation, the school logo is brought up and somehow Marie (wife) sees it and thinks, oh no, this won't do at all. So being the excellent leader that she is, she explains to the group that she can have her husband come up with some concepts/new ideas for a rebranded logo.
She came home and promptly notified me that I had been volunteered to rebrand the school. I didn't find this to be a negative experience at all. My voluntold quickly turned into volunteering, this presented a great opportunity.
Tony is that you?
Every design has a starting point, this was mine. The school requirements were:
keep a tiger mascot
keep blue and yellow (open to different shades)
branding that would compete with the other higher end schools (private and public) in the city
First up, color adjustment. I took the blue and gave it a navy tone and turned the yellow into a much more rich gold color. Next up was the tiger. With the current tiger theme that said "breakfast cereal" to me, I kind of went in the complete opposite direction.
the new color scheme was a big hit.
Stylistically, the tiger played really well
being an elementary and middle school they thought that maybe a less scary tiger would be better
Right out of the gate, feedback was overwhelmingly positive. The consensus was that maybe a mixture of the bottom row logos would get us to where we needed to be.
For the first time in more than 40 years, the school had a new logo. The school leadership was thrilled with the look and design and the PTO couldn't wait to get the new logo onto merchandise that would be used to raise money for the school.
Would you like a brand with that?
The Mount Washington School has an interesting problem. There is a disconnect between the lower school and the upper school (middle school). While the schools are literally disconnected, it goes further than that. There is a bit of a culture shift, a lot of kids switch schools when it comes time to middle school and in a lot of ways, it feels like it's the same school only in name.
While this is not a problem that can be solved with some branding, I thought that it definitely couldn't hurt. I came up with a concept of having a tiger cub in the lower school and then as they grow, they turn into tigers in the upper school. The idea was that there could be some sort of ritual or ceremony for the kids as they move up, something that is big and fun... Something that would motivate a cub to stay and become a tiger, making it harder for parents to move their kids to another school.
Thoughts on how it turned out?
I also thought this would be a great revenue stream for the PTO. The shift from lower to upper, meant new uniforms, new shirts, hats, swag, all of it.
While I did this on my own accord and pitched the concept successfully to the PTO, the school administration didn't bite. I can completely understand why, for the most part the administration is perpetually short handed and as much as I thought I was helping - at the end of the day, it was just a lot more work that no one has time to do.
And the rest of the guide.
NOT JUST A LOGO?
Armed with a logo, the team still needed some rules on what they should and shouldn't do. No logo, no matter how good can survive a free for all on it's use. Handing the school a logo without giving them a brand guide would have caused more chaos and taken them further from the reason we started working together in the first place.
FROM VOLUNTOLD TO VOLUNTEER
Since my first voluntolding experience, I've built some relationships with the PTO and school leadership and have continued to do pro bono work for the school. Here are a few other things I've developed for them.