Bucknell University’s name has always carried a great deal of weight, even for those unfamiliar with the school. And true to that reputation, the institution has educated some of America’s most successful CEOs, entertainers, journalists, and government officials. What Bucknell lacked, however, was a good story that truly differentiated the university from its peers.
As we began to get to know the school, we realized that what made Bucknell different was the unpredictable journeys that its students and alumni take. Like at any university, Bucknellians declare majors and minors. But these choices don’t strictly define who they become. It’s not unusual for an English major to end up in business, or for someone with a biology degree to excel in entertainment. The knowledge and support that Bucknell offers translates well to any career path.
These journeys – each one a paradigm of the Bucknellian experience — proved to be the starting point from which to explore a powerful brand story.
We started by listening – getting input form more than 1,400 students, alumni, parents, faculty and staff. The stories emphasized the unexpected paths forged by Bucknellians: One path led Leslie Moonves ’71 from a Bucknell Spanish degree to the boardroom at CBS. Another inspired David Scadden ’75, an English major, to co-found the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. And another took Antoinette Klatzky ’08 from the study of geography to empowering young women around the world.
In addition to deep discovery work on campus, we hosted the Bucknell brand team in our Columbus office, working closely together to determine which aspect of the Bucknell experience was responsible for the success their alumni share. As it turned out, it wasn’t any one aspect at all. It was all of them together. And while these Bucknellian interconnections and winding journeys appeared surprising and nonlinear, we found the common element in their success to be very straightforward.
“By Way of Bucknell” was the kernel of a new creative platform for the brand. It’s a phrase that encapsulates every Bucknellian’s journey, as they explore their passions, hone their skills, and forge the connections that lead them to their successful futures. And each of those stories is personal and unique.
Accordingly, the brand taps into these narratives, which are told verbally and visually, using a system of icons and line work that connects branching pathways and distinct points along the journey. From one subject to another, one extracurricular to the next, each profile is individual, while authentically linking back to the larger idea.
Each piece of print collateral carries the brand’s distinctive look and feel. We implemented the creative platform through pieces that speak to Bucknell’s best-fit prospective students and present the university authentically. The viewbook not only tells the university’s story, but also illustrates potential pathways to success through profiles of current student and alumni. It even includes a sample road map, an at-a-glance toolkit for students interested in the admissions process.
It was a natural outgrowth of the creative platform: developing environmental signage that transformed Bucknell’s campus into a visual expression of the Bucknell journey. The message was reinforced as students went about their everyday schedules. The elements traced paths between buildings, highlighting familiar directions for Bucknellians to follow, or opening ways for them to forge their own.
We gave Bucknell’s communicators tools for navigating and executing the new platform, in the form of a robust set of brand guidelines. The Bucknell team then built a comprehensive brand website that includes not only visual and verbal standards, but also links to design files, student and alumni stories, and an editorial style guide.
Now, when writers and designers need a bit of direction, they can consult a wide range of print and online resources for making decisions and building communications.