Reflecting CNC's real identity

The College of New Caledonia unveiled its new logo last Friday, the result of a 14-month exercise that involved focus groups, interviews and feedback sessions with hundreds of people, including students, alumni, faculty and other stakeholders.

Leger Marketing, the largest Canadian-owned market research firm, handled the initial market research on the school's brand. They found that area residents were much more positive about the college itself than they were about the city's visual identity.

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After more consultation and discussion, Will Creative, a two-person design shop in Vancouver, was hired to design the logo.

After everything was said and done, the logo, the branding and the messaging cost the college $95,000, according to CNC communications director Alyson Gourley-Cramer.

In May, the college will unveil its new website. For that job, it commissioned RES.IM, a six-person company in London, Ont. The bill for that work will be $150,000, Gourley-Cramer said.

The cost for the website is not particularly outrageous, especially when considering that it needs to handle course registration, protect the personal information of its students and appeal not only to B.C. residents but prospective students from around the world, for many of whom English is a second language.

Not only was the website out of date, Gourley-Cramer explained, but the software running it was so old it wasn't even supported any more.

The website is a critical tool for post-secondary institutions, not only for marketing, course selection and library searches, but also for students to obtain more information about campus services, everything from clubs and tutors to financial aid and mental health counselling.

Seen in that light, not only is the cost warranted in the short and long term but it was long overdue. The bang for the buck is definitely there.

The visual identity, and especially its cost, can't be justified, although a great effort was made to do so last Friday.

"The bar is a unique, simple graphic element of the logo representing one of CNC's most important brand qualities: connection," the college's press release said Friday. "It is the bridge between learners and educators, inspiring movement forward, connecting people to potential."

That's a lot of words to provide a rationale for a thick red line separating "College of New Caledonia" in black on top and "CNC" in all caps below. Sometimes a red line is just a red line but apparently in this case it's a bridge.

"Our brand is who we are," said CNC president Henry Reiser.

"It's what distinguishes us from others. It permeates our decisions and affects our service delivery."

That's simply not true. That's the equivalent of saying the clothes make the man. Every post-secondary institution talks about connecting learners and educators, connecting people to their potential and so on. So what makes CNC special?

Of course CNC needs a visual identity that separates it not only from UNBC but also from the other colleges in B.C. That's one way to be special but, to paraphrase Martin Luther King horribly, it's not the colour of the logo that counts but the content of the school's character that matters most.

CNC's character is its courses and trades programs, the instructors who deliver those classes and the school's culture, from its history, student activities, its mix of students from near and far, the work it deems significant and, most importantly, Prince George, the region's diverse communities and the people that live in this area.

No branding or visual identity can truly capture that, so it should come as no surprise when a marketing firm finds area residents think more of CNC than they do of the school's logo. While it was probably time to update CNC's logo, the college won't get nearly the return on that $95,000 investment as it will out of that $150,000 website.

The website will connect students with each other, with educators and with the college.

CNC could have updated its logo and visual identity for a fraction of the cost

and spent the rest of the money on celebrating its true identity, which is what really matters.

-- Editor-in-chief Neil Godbout

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