We are proud to have won a GOLD and SILVER InspirED Brilliance Award for the branding work we did for Chappaqua Friends.
We are also proud to repost this interview with Cheryl Fisher on the branding efforts of Chappaqua Friends, originally published on InspirEd School Marketer's By Example.
Chosen because the Chappaqua Friends Nursery School won Gold for School Logo in the 2017 InspirED Brilliance Awards. InspirED interviewed Cheryl Hoops, Founder and Head of Creative of HelloMethod, to learn about the process, the product, and the results.
Chappaqua Friends Nursery School, located in Chappaqua, NY, just north of New York City, is a coed nursery school for boys and girls in ages 2-5. The thought that a nursery school would win a Gold award in the 2017 InspirED Brilliance Awards would not occur to most folks. Yet the judges knew a winner when they saw it, proving one of the most wonderful aspects of the Brilliance Awards is that size doesn’t matter, small doesn’t mean limited, and budgets don’t always figure into the equation. (As an aside, not only did Chappaqua Friends garner this Gold, but they also brought home a Silver for High Impact Effort by Small School for the website.)
START WITH A PROJECT. END WITH A BRAND.
Janet Himel, Director of Chappaqua Friends, knew the school was ready for a website redesign and as preparations began, the question came up of how best to tell the school’s story, both visually and in words.
A website redesign is one of those perfect moments to take stock of the school’s brand and make changes and improvements where needed. A website redesign forces the school to think about itself both from the internal and external audience’s point of view and is an opportunity to trim down content, infuse brand messages throughout the site, and create a friendly user-experience where there may not have been one in the past.
A website redesign is a huge undertaking for any size school, and InspirED’s research has shown that very few schools hire extra staff to manage the process. Instead, they are more likely to outsource help in the way of web developers, marketing and branding consultants, writers, and photographers.
A WAY WILL OPEN
Janet partnered with Cheryl Hoops Fisher, founder and head of creative of HelloMethod, a design firm specializing in school marketing. Cheryl, also a passionate member of the Friends community, knew the great potential to share the Chappaqua Friends story throughout their entire brand, especially their site.
Cheryl says, “The strategy for the project was driven by HelloMethod’s approach to sharing a school’s story: 1. Learn 2. Focus 3. Deliver.”
The firm got to know what makes Chappaqua Friends unique by connecting with current families, faculty, alumni, and the Friends Council. They did this via open conversations, social listening, online surveys, and spending time in the school environment.
This led to a focus on three core story pillars: Friends Philosophy, Mindful Curriculum and Welcoming Community.
DISCOVER HIDDEN THE GEM
When it came to delivery, the logo came before the website, because the logo would drive much of the website design. The school reviewed many logo concepts, but one visual kept popping up above all others.
“We were really drawn to an element we discovered in the 'Learn' phase of the strategy,” says Cheryl. “It was a charming illustration included on the invitation of a fundraising event hosted a few years ago, created by Agnes Legowiecka, a friend of Chappaqua Friends Alumni Parent, Robin Chwatko.”
This illustration felt “just right” as the foundation but needed refinements to grow into a logo that would represent the school for years to come. These adjustments took place in steps.
POLISH THE GEM
Cheryl explains, “We brought in colors and details to represent the unique journey a child and their family takes through Chappaqua Friends and beyond. This is represented with the birds, which are directly connected to how Chappaqua Friends names their classes and how children develop great pride in themselves being a ‘cardinal’ or ‘robin’ as they ‘take flight’.”
“We also modernized the font supporting the graphic,” Cheryl continues. “The core illustration is very classic and has a vintage appeal. We needed to make sure the identity was relevant to today’s parent — and the modern font helps to do this and to reflect the thoughtful investments the school continually makes to improve their early childhood program.”
PLACE THE GEM IN THE SETTING
The final design is the flagship graphic on the homepage instead of a hero image. The whole project including the brand experience update, graphic identity and website design took six months to complete.
Details of the logo are used throughout the site to expand and reinforce the brand experience.
Within a week of launching the new site, a prospective mother reached out to Janet and said, “After looking at your site, I knew your school was the perfect school for our family.” It has also had a positive effect on faculty, reinforcing pride in affiliation.
ADVICE FOR OTHER SCHOOL MARKETERS
Cheryl offers the following words of wisdom.
1. Before you spend another dollar on marketing or brand: start with your audience. Spend time and energy upfront understanding their perspective, the language they use and what matters most to them. It will steer your focus and help you deliver materials that will really connect - allowing you to make the most of your marketing budget.
2. Really dig into to your story. Look for the detailed moments that make your school’s story true — the sounds, the memories, the artwork. Look at a day in the life at your school from an observing perspective – you will begin to see details and elements that help express your story that you can use in your branding and marketing. And when you do — it will be so authentic, so true and really connect who you are with your audience. Just like we found in the evolution of our graphic identity.
The Chappaqua Friends Creative Team
Janet Himel, Director of Chappaqua Friends Nursery School
Cheryl Fisher, Head of Creative and Founder, HelloMethod