Episcopal schools are tented by a church of inclusivity. This is a religion that celebrates diversity, and democracy. It prides itself on giving equal importance to spirituality, tradition and—surprising too many—reason. All this liberty is hard to brand. Design by a committee is too often a commitment to bad design.
To tell the whole story State of Assembly would have to go back 400 years, so Episcopal Day knew we’d done our homework. And before we presented one hint of design, we re-expressed what we were told and re-imagined a new, still familiar, way to articulate it. The creative work we do at State of Assembly is the assembly itself, taking the information our clients share with us and rearranging it, so it makes sense to most people.
How do you get a whole school to agree? Involve them all. State of Assemlby uses tools that involve everyone on some level. This makes everyone involved with the process—they’re invested. Systems were built so each member of the community could share their feelings with passion and order.Yeah, we have a system for that.This makes it possible to exercise our best asset, listening.
St. Matthew’s Episcopal Day School has been tied to the city of San Mateo since 1865. And since 1957, it’s been synonymous, and mistaken, with a Catholic school right down the street. As we interviewed parents, teachers, and staff, we were taught and recognized that what this school offers has been overlooked due to preconceptions built into the layout of its name. It was suggested that we rename their school. A particular name was floated, and it made sense for multiple reasons. They wanted to call the school Episcopal Day School of St Matthew. The first great thing about this was that this name removed a 67-year-old confusion from an Episcopal school and a Catholic school. A confusion was supposed to be settled across the pond 487 years ago. Second, in two words, it says what this school is about; the value of being an Episcopal school and the bright future, opportunity, and optimism that every new day brings. From a marketing perspective, this name is a lot of fun; it has “play.” You can come up with fun, energy-filled marketing campaigns—ALL Episcopal DAY long. Having settled on a name, we focused on the need to attract people who support their community. This community appreciates the Episcopal values tied to the diversity of style, diversity of thought, critical thinking, and questioning. We needed to find more people who appreciate what this school is about and see if they feel at home with the community. The message has to be clear: there is no doubt that this school is right for their child. One of the school’s chaplains, Chaplain Amber told us that this was “bigger than a school messaging problem… this is an Episcopal Church problem.” She explained that the Episcopal church itself has a tough time describing what is so unique and amazing within it. So, before we worked on the church problem, we worked on defining who Episcopal Day is so we could build a larger community. Our task was to find more people, who in their HEARTS, are similar to this community. Then the school can support them, grow them and organize. Ultimately they will make up the brand. The enlightenment brought the idea of reason. To our best understanding, ‘reason’ separates the Episcopal church and the Catholic church. Richard Hooker said a strong church should hold all 3 (tradition, scripture, and reason) equally, like a steady three-legged stool. This was the Episcopal church problem. People have a hard time believing that a church would be so tied to reason. And if people make that assumption about the church, what would make them think that a school tied to that church would be any different? But, the people of this school’s community—they get it! They may have trouble finding the words, but they get it— here in their heart. We took the idea of the 3 legged-stool (tradition, scripture, and reason) and turned it ever so slightly to make it resonate. Look between these lines, and you find broader representation, clear action, and a goal. When you take REASON and SCRIPTURE, you find PURPOSE between them. When you take SCRIPTURE and TRADITION and put them together, you find SPIRIT. When you take TRADITION and REASON and put them together, you gain RESPONSIBILITY. All of this together creates APPRECIATION. An appreciation for life, the goal. From that, you develop a purpose, the school purpose; Episcopal Day is “To illuminate the path of inquiry toward responsibility, purpose, and spirit.” In other words, this is their three-legged stool, taken from the three pillars on which the Episcopal Church is based and giving each one of them a purpose for the children and themselves. How does Episcopal Day make that purpose come alive every day? We learned that (and maybe it’s not daily? Maybe it’s weekly? maybe it’s monthly?) there is a pattern that the school does that is unlike any other. It feeds on itself, and it keeps creating something stronger with every rotation, every revolution; you teach students service. Through service, students learn humility. In their humility, they gain perspective. Through perspective, they learn to inquire. With inquiry, they understand the importance of intent. When they have intent, they understand responsibility. And when they know responsibility, they learn how to be of service to others. All of this together creates an appreciation. Appreciation for oneself, appreciation for others, appreciation for where they stand at 8th-grade, appreciation for where they stand as an adult. Wherever they go in this life, they carry appreciation. All of this together is based within their community set of shared values. The church on the outside of the ring, the school closer-in, at the center is appreciation. How do we behave to prove these intangibles as parents, guardians, teachers, and faculty? To be honest, it was nothing different than they already did. The Episcopal Day values guide behavior for teachers, administrators, or parents to ensure this appreciation is instilled in every Episcopal Day student. They read this way, “As teachers and faculty, we model inquiry, respect, service, and compassion. We appreciate this responsibility as it illustrates our service to others. We teach our students the honor of service; so they may learn humility; the strength of humility so they may gain perspective; the power of perspective to encourage inquiry; the value of inquiry so they may understand intent; the importance of intent, so they develop responsibility; and with responsibility they carry appreciation.” Every line begins with what is taught and ends with the set of values. A community starts when everyone has similar values and goals, and they are all willing to participate. Most parents who send their children to this school are not Episcopalian. What is it that makes them send their children here? These parents understand that the people who make up this community have the same values. And they act on these values. “So, what will I do?” This question has its roots in childhood; it’s among the first questions a child will ask itself. “What will I do today?”, “What will I do when I grow up?” As they get older, this question is tied more to their ego. “What will I do so I can get what I want?”, “What will I do so I can be like them?” Then it all comes back to appreciation. They find awareness of self, an appreciation for the actions they take. “What will I do for other students?”, “What will I do for my community, the world?” This can be distilled down to one line “This is my Day. What will I do?” It stresses that this school comprises diverse individuals working, weaving, and asking themselves, what will they do to make this a strong community? They needed a symbol for this feeling. One that reminds them of their core values. They are a diverse community that values responsibility, spirit, and purpose. It is a symbol that reflects themselves as a whole, their history, and their future. As part of the discovery and research process, we started digging into the Episcopal church’s symbols, imagery, and visual style. And to be honest, it was a little frustrating. The symbolism was was all over the place. The Episcopal religion has a brand problem. Each Episcopal Church seemed to have its own style, its own interpretation. “The descriptions of each symbol will only be one explanation; there are probably many more.” Ambiguous. That there isn’t just one way to think about this. And we realized that this ambiguity was the brand. If you look at art in the Soviet Union after WW2, it is all very consistent. Themes, color palette, style; all consistent because there was an official style dictated by their government. On the other hand, if you look at art in America during this same period, it is all over the place. Pollock was splattering paint all over, Rothko distributing giant fields of color, Rockwell painting realistic portraits of our American culture. This lack of consistency speaks to the essence of the American brand. America stands for freedom. America says we don’t have a state-sponsored style; you are free to express yourself in any style you choose. Maybe no other church is tied fundamentally, and historically, closer than the Episcopal Church. In the same way, the lack of consistency in the Episcopal Church visuals expresses a greater truth about who they are and what they value. Artists hired by Episcopal Churches to create stained glass windows or priest clothing/vestments would often say their art was “open to interpretation.” It allows people to make their own personal connection with the art itself. The direction artists received from the church did not dictate style but asked that the work be open for many views. The church realized that allowing individuals to interpret the work for themselves would create a more powerful connection for each individual in the community. The Episcopal Church says that we value diversity of style, diversity of thought, and critical thinking and questioning. We went into the research looking for guidance and direction on visual styles to explore. But what we found was really the unique essence of the Episcopal Church. The theme of a multi-textured tapestry came up over and over. Each person’s offering is woven into the life of the whole, making it stronger and beautiful. It really spoke to who Episcopal Day is and the direction they want to go. The idea that the richness and beauty of the community are strengthened by diversity is a beautiful notion. Sharing a wide variety of differing beliefs about various topics yet still bound together is a powerful environment. Not only diversity in terms of people, but also diversity in terms of thought. The more unique viewpoints you take in, the clearer the picture becomes. Our design idea for the logo was inspired by this theme of the multi-textured tapestry. An idea of weaving together scripture, tradition, and reason. It communicates that every person in the Episcopal Day community is unique. Their unique perspective contributes to the whole and creates something beautiful and strong. It honors the Episcopal value of reason and the approach of leaving art and symbols open to interpretation. The sun captures childhood and adolescence’s energy, exuberance, and joy; new dawn, bright futures, and optimism. The cross in the center is the deep connection to the church and the 3-legged stool, their Episcopal foundation that values reason, tradition, and scripture. The woven pattern found in the center is the multi-textured tapestry, their community. Its energy comes in. It creates a tight-knit community, hands coming together and energy flowing out, representing the welcoming of people from all backgrounds and religions. These layers of meaning create a symbol that is open to interpretation. It invites each member of the Episcopal Day community to connect with it individually. It’s a symbol as unique as Episcopal Day. It visually communicates what makes this school so distinctive. You start to see it come to life through examples of different lockups and colorways. To see how it can be applied in the community, from uniforms, signage, and murals. There is ample opportunity to bring in secondary color palette and to play with fun patterns based on the logo design. The tagline and the logo play so well off each other. You’ve read the weave of history, community, and shared values that have gone into creating the design. It was our absolute joy to do this work for such thoughtful and brilliant people who have values that are so important at this moment in history. This is a brand new day. This is an Episcopal Day. Now ask yourself—This is my day, what will I do?