the H is back on top

When something is right, you just know it.

That’s how the Heidelberg community has always felt about its iconic H. It is a mark recognizable to all alums, worn with pride on pins, letterman jackets, and displayed on license plates.

While beloved, the Heidelberg H has not been a part of the official university logo for the past seven years. Based on strategic decisions, Heidelberg went through a rebranding process in late 2008 and early 2009 when it switched from college to university. A new logo was created and new color palette was chosen. Heidelberg College became Heidelberg University with the University Hall tower as the brand mark in the logo.

While the tower of University Hall is an iconic image on campus, it never resonated with alumni or students, and was not differentiating in the higher education market. Everything from apparel, athletic uniforms and clubs and organizations all continued to use the H and the Student Prince. After seven years, the H remained the main mark used on campus while the new logo never took hold.

In the summer of 2015, Heidelberg was developing a strategic marketing plan to help boost enrollment and strengthen the Heidelberg brand. One immediate need was a new website (launched this summer), but everyone realized there was a need to think long-term about Heidelberg’s identity and what the brand was in the marketplace.

A decision was made: We needed to go back to the H.

“Heidelberg was having an identity crisis,” said Audrey Burkholder, director of marketing and communication services, "There was inconsistency everywhere. We were using two colors, two marks, and departments across campus were using things differently between internal and external audiences. It was a mess.”

Burkholder and her team were tasked with defining, developing and planning a brand strategy. The first step was to change the logo.

“We wanted to stay true to Heidelberg’s history, but be usable in 2016 and relevant for today’s students,” said Burkholder.  

Assistant Director of Creative Services Erica Hartman designed the new logo and established the new brand standards. “A logo is the single unifying mark that people identify with,” she said. “This campus has a historically modern feel and I wanted the logo to reflect that. Heidelberg’s H brings the past into the present.”

In her research, Hartman looked through class banners, Aurora yearbooks and the Heidelberg archives to see the evolution of the Heidelberg H. She hopes the new logo will continue to be a recognizable mark in the higher education community.

“Heidelberg is a friendly, welcoming place and I wanted to convey that through the design,” she said.

Hartman also adjusted the university colors, developed a visual brand guide and began updating materials. Heidelberg will continue to embrace its tri-color history, but has implemented a color hierarchy to help convey a more cohesive and professional image to all constituents. Orange will now be the lead and main Heidelberg color with red and black as supporting actors.

It’s all about consistency and distinction.

“In today’s market, you have a very small window to make an impression,” Burkholder said. “The more consistent we can be with our brand, the more it sticks. It needs to tell a story.”

But a brand is more than a logo.

“A brand is your reputation, your products, your services and your visual impressions. Ultimately, it is your value,” said President Rob Huntington. “Heidelberg has been working hard to strengthen and improve all of these critical elements.”

While a university can build and market its brand, the impact is not completely in its control. What do our students, alumni, and the outside community say about Heidelberg? What do they think about the institution? How do they feel about the university? That is the Heidelberg brand.

“Having a consistent and strong brand enables us to tell a unifying and sustainable story,” Huntington said. “Moving forward means making meaningful changes that deliver more value to our students, and this new iteration of the Heidelberg logo embraces our historic roots while looking toward the future.”

Heidelberg is stronger than ever, and the H is back in full force, a sign of pride for past and future classes. Now that’s a brand.

Published in Fall 16

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