A brand to match Virginia Tech’s momentum
September 26, 2017
Virginia Tech starts a new chapter of its story by unveiling a dramatic new platform from which to share it.
Building on a 145-year-old tradition of education, service, and outreach, the university strives to transcend the boundaries of traditional education, redefine research through transdisciplinary problem-solving, and embrace its role as a global land-grant university. It is a moment when Hokies of the past, present, and future can stake their collective claim as a positive force in the world.
Such a moment requires a fresh, unified, and vibrant approach in storytelling to ensure it is fully illuminated. And such a mission requires an equally bold brand to match.
Virginia Tech has begun the process of embracing a new brand platform and the accompanying new logo, which will encompass the full scope of the Hokie community.
“I think everyone with a connection to the university understands that Virginia Tech is a special place,” said President Tim Sands. “To me, this brand represents all the good things in our community, from our foundational commitment to service to our aspirations of solving the world’s most challenging problems and making a difference for future generations. I’m proud to be part of this chapter in Virginia Tech’s history.
Inspired by university tradition
Rooted in Virginia Tech’s legacy and focused on the future, the brand is more than just a logo, tagline, or campaign. Rather, the brand is a total experience for the university community, unbound by time or location.
“Behind the scenes, we have worked in earnest to understand the university’s essence in a way that captures the energy and momentum of Virginia Tech,” said Tracy Vosburgh, senior associate vice president for university relations. “In our words, design, and imagery, you’ll notice a cohesive and vibrant expression of what differentiates Virginia Tech from others and aligns us to position us to get above the chaotic noise with our platform of the role we claim in the world.”
Although the actual brand expression is new, it was mined out of the university’s tradition of academic success, research and innovation, and personal commitment.
It was a 26-mile hike in the fall of 1872 that earned 16-year-old Addison Caldwell the opportunity to claim his role as the first student of the university that would become Virginia Tech. Members of the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets honor that tradition by tracing the steps Caldwell took every academic year.
During the next 145 years, countless Hokies set out with the same tenacious spirit, eager to pursue an education that would allow them to make an impact on their world. Together, their accounts tell the university’s evolving story.
The new brand marks the culmination of more than a year’s worth of qualitative and quantitative research and discovery that included feedback from Virginia Tech current and prospective students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends, and donors. The brand was finalized and presented to the Board of Visitors at its September 2017 meeting, where it was enthusiastically endorsed.
“After graduating from Virginia Tech, I experienced firsthand the dynamic and exciting journey toward my career and personal goals" said Dennis Treacy, rector of the Board of Visitors who received his bachelor’s degree in forestry and wildlife with a concentration in fisheries science in 1978. “I studied math and science primarily but quickly realized that classes incorporating humanities and management principles are really the factors that shaped my life and career.
“We are now in a new time and I am energized and encouraged by the university's emphasis on integrated learning and the Hokie spirit to accept new approaches that I have seen at all levels of the university,” Treacy said. “The new look that we announce today captures the essence of that spirit.”
A new logo
The new logo encapsulates the spirit of the university’s educational experience and highlights Virginia Tech’s identity as an inclusive community that thrives at the intersection of academic disciplines.
"Virginia Tech is a strong brand, and it is important that we build on all strengths as we move forward," said Melanie Schramm, director of marketing in university relations. "Continuity inside our logos is timely and important to our efforts to move the brand forward. The new university logo bridges academic and athletic identities, while maintaining specific uniqueness."
Mirroring the shape of the “flying VT” proudly displayed by Hokie student-athletes — which remains as the distinctive mark for Virginia Tech’s athletics program — the new university logo offers a visual expression that unifies the passions for academics and athletics.
Meanwhile, brand expressions, such as the Chicago maroon and burnt orange, the HokieBird, the university seal, and Hokie Stone, will remain staples of Virginia Tech as the university's footprint expands throughout the commonwealth and beyond.
The former logo, a shield depicting the words "Virginia Tech," which has served the university since 1991, will be retired and added to the collection of vintage marks in the marketing vault. The tagline, "Invent the Future," which was added in 2006, will also be retired. A tagline will no longer be part of the university mark.
What will also remain unchanged are the key players. For more than a century, Virginia Tech's story has hinged on the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends who have answered the call to become a force of good in the world. As those efforts increase, the new brand will provide the voice to match.
'What are you going to do to make a difference?'
“Across each of our colleges and academic and research programs and throughout our campus community, Virginia Tech is creating global impacts through transformative research, education, and engagement to become a premier 21st-century global land-grant institution,” said Executive Vice President and Provost Thanassis Rikakis.
“This new brand represents our progress and continued commitment to collaboration and innovation and a celebration of our collective efforts to grow Beyond Boundaries,” Rikakis said. “It allows not only for the opportunity to share our vision and ongoing work, but provides us a highly visible platform from which to showcase our progress as we continue to challenge ourselves and our students to solve the next generation of global issues in the spirit of Ut Prosim (That I May Serve).”
Hadley Carter is one of those students. She was also one of the voices on the president’s review team who guided the design process and review for the new logo and university mark.
A senior marketing major from Richmond, Carter said she had always felt the university's culture asked that she step up, but the new brand elevated that calling to a new level.
“This brand represents our call to move forward and operate as a community that believes we can make a difference by being a part of something bigger than ourselves,” Carter said. "It's like it's asking all Hokies, whether you are here now or attended 50 years ago, ‘What are you going to do to make a difference?’”
That question has been a longstanding pillar of the university and is one which Theresa Mayer, vice president for research and innovation, believes the new brand revives the call to answer, especially in the research arena.
"With strong institutional and community support to create transdisciplinary research programs and build mutually beneficial partnerships and networks, Virginia Tech is well-positioned to lead breakthrough change,” Mayer said. "The new brand lays the foundation to accurately communicate that vision and empowers us to make it a reality."
The brand also shares stories of generations of passionate alumni whose lives and experiences have shaped Virginia Tech’s history. They hold a lifelong affinity for the university as it marches into the future.
“Virginia Tech’s community and traditions create distinctive bonds between past and future generations of Hokies,” said Matt Winston, senior associate vice president for alumni relations. “Our alumni connect with one another sharing a passion for our alma mater, and we show our pride displaying our recognizable and evolving brand wherever we go.”
As Virginia Tech presses forward, its story, the stories of those who join the call, and the stories of those whose lives were changed by coming to this university will shape the institution’s trajectory. And now Virginia Tech has a powerful narrative that links the past, present, and future.
Written by Travis Williams