Luther’s public face gets a lift

Hearing positive reactions to Martin Luther University College’s new logo, since it was unveiled in late June, has been gratifying. After all, its creation was more than two years in the making.
   But even more satisfying is when I see sparks of recognition wash over the faces of folks after they learn the meaning behind the Ringing Rose – the circular symbol forming the heart of the school’s new visual identity.
More often than not, sounds of “ooohhhhhh” signal their newfound enlightenment.
   After the school’s Board of Governors approved the once-in-a generation name change from Waterloo Lutheran Seminary, it was clear the move would require a new school logo.
   In mid-2015, we sent letters to five creative firms inviting them to submit proposals to develop the logo and the overall ‘look’ (the visual identity) for the school. We soon identified Studio Locale, a small firm with offices in Kitchener and Toronto, as a top candidate for the job. We believed they had the skills, sensitivity and capacity to create the school’s public face.
   But we couldn’t move ahead with logo development until we received approval from Ontario’s Ministry of Training Colleges and Universities to change the name. Indeed, the wheels of government grind slowly. In the spring of 2017, we received approval to use the phrase “university college.” Although Luther is the successor to Waterloo Lutheran University, the school doesn’t offer enough programs to fit the ministry’s requirements to use the term “university.”
   Following the Province’s approval, we signed a contract with Studio Locale.
   Robin Mondor, one of the firm’s managing partners, said the biggest challenge for the team was to strike a balance between the legacy of the seminary and its vision for the future.
   “We wanted to develop a visual representation that reflected the values and characteristics of the school; resonated with past and present students and faculty; and continued to represent Luther in the future,” Mondor said.
   To get a good understanding of the school’s identity, during the summer of 2017 Studio Locale interviewed about two dozen people including the school’s board executive and management team; top administrators at Wilfrid Laurier University, with which Luther is federated; and community partners. Studio Locale also sent paper surveys to the women’s auxiliary and distributed an online survey to all rostered pastors in the Eastern Synod.
   From that information, designers developed half a dozen initial concepts, and presented them to a core group: Mark Harris, principal-dean, Tom Bishop, board member, Helen Exley, Laurier’s associate director of marketing and creative services; and me, the school’s communications director.
   After making some refinements, I presented the concepts to the school’s faculty.
   Of course, Martin Luther University College is a mouthful. No doubt, in conversation, people will shorten it.
Harris said faculty strongly favoured emphasizing Luther as the short form for the school, as opposed to the school’s initials.
“Giving Luther prominence in the logo was a way of highlighting the heritage of our institution, while suggesting a short form people could use, since they would inevitably shorten it in any case,” he said.
   After another round of revisions, Studio Locale revealed the concepts at the fall board meeting. Taking into account the responses at the meeting and several online polls designed to solicit the views of board members, faculty and staff, Studio Locale developed a proposed final concept.
During a special meeting in January 2018 to address a variety of issues, board members approved Luther’s first visual identity.
“Board members were delighted to see the care designers took to incorporate the school’s history and tradition into the logo, while also reflecting our vision for the future in a new and fresh way,” said James Phillips, board chair. “It looks great on everything from the small pin I wear on my lapel to the banners and signs on the campus.”
   So, what elicits the “oooohhhhhs” of enlightenment upon hearing the logo is deciphered?
Notice the Ringing Rose. At first glance, it looks like an abstract flower. True, but that’s not the full story.
Look closely at the petals and you will see the shape of bells.
   The design combines elements of our school’s bell tower and the five-petal Luther Rose. Rendered in vibrant colours, the symbol honours our Lutheran traditions and rings hope as our school, students and alumni continue to make positive contributions in God’s world.

By Mirko Petricevic, Luther’s director of communications and public affairs.