University aims for brand consistency

James Vaughn

For nearly three decades, one logo, various shades of red, white and blue and a variety of eagles have represented USI.

When Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Communications Kindra Strupp arrived in January, she began asking people what they thought about the current logo, which has left its mark since the university became independent in 1985.

Many people were unaware that the red area to the right of “USI” represents the state of Indiana, and the white star in the bottom, left corner of the red area represents Evansville.

“When you have a brand that is supposed to be reflective of who you are and yet people aren’t seeing it – it’s sort of hidden in plain sight – it may not be working as well as you would hope,” Strupp said.

Over the years, USI’s colors have also varied. The blue has gone from a royal to a navy and the red has darkened from an orange shade.

“There is certainly equity in the colors and we don’t want to change that. People know us by red, white and blue,” Strupp said. “We’re not looking to scrap the red, white and blue altogether.”

The university is, however, looking into adding a silver element.

Senior Dalton Isham thinks the “Americana” colors should be scrapped.

“We have one of the most used color schemes for our logo,” he said.

Isham, an advertising major, said he has studied branding and knows the university can come up with something more creative.

“I think USI is an awesome school,” he said. “Our brand does not reflect that.”

As a “modern, forward-looking place,” the university decided to make some changes. So they looked to a more competent logo industry for help.

Nine local, regional and national firms submitted proposals. Then, a team of 11 individuals from various departments, including two students, selected three firms to give presentations.

Rickabaugh Graphics made the final cut.

The firm, based in Gahanna, Ohio, has designed for The Ohio State University, Marquette University, Western Kentucky University, the NFL, the NBA, Mike Tyson and Toyota, to name a few.

USI and Rickabaugh are looking at more than just the logo – a new athletic mark and a sanctioned eagle will also be created.

“We hope to have a new brand family,” Strupp said. “There will be nothing like (it) and we will be proud of it.”

The university has developed focus groups that include alumni, coaches, students and faculty, among others.

All of the data gathered from those groups was provided to Rickabaugh and his staff, who will present seven or eight brand families to the selection team this week.

“Soon, we will see the fruits of that labor,” Strupp said.

Once three families have been chosen, the selection process will begin again.

“We’ll start asking people, ‘What do you think?’” Strupp said.

One goal is consistency. When it’s all said and done, the university will have a “brand standards manual,” she said.

“Our desire is that anyone who wants to touch the brand will know how to use it,” Strupp said.

Formally, around 100 students and faculty members have been asked for their input. Informally, several hundred have expressed their opinions.

“We hope that what we’re doing today will stand the test of time,” Strupp said. “Decades from now, people will still say, ‘Yeah, that reflects who we are as a university.’”

Rickabaugh’s team has sufficient information to move forward in developing a brand family on the university’s behalf, she said.

“Mr. Rickabaugh believes we’ve gone above and beyond what many schools would have done in a similar position to find out who we are,” Strupp said.