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Today, everyone in the world is creating content. Creating content for websites, for products, for social media. It’s endless. Each has its own look, inspirations, and creative expressions. With so many content creators, we can’t rely on the status quo of having a useful product and a purposeful mission-statement. We have to lean on art.
The use of art to help define an individual, a business, or an institution is what we know as branding. Authentic branding is where art and content collide. Branding helps businesses communicate their ideas, how they want people to feel, and what they stand for. In short, a brand is a creative expression of the change a business hopes to make in the world.
At AOEU, it is our mission to grow amazing art teachers by providing rigorous, relevant, and engaging learning opportunities at each stage of their career. To help communicate that vision, we’ve implemented some visual changes on our website.
As I began my career, I realized my passion is to help people. I want the stories being told by the company I work for to actually matter in the lives of the people who use their products and services.
Both of my parents are teachers (English and journalism). Their passion for K-12 education motivates and inspires me every day. As the Director of Marketing & Customer Experience at AOEU, my job is to connect K-12 art teachers to the content AOEU produces. The Marketing Team aims to share and amplify the voices of content producers, customers, readers, and partners to build a world where art teachers don’t have to feel alone in their buildings. We’re all in art education, and we have to stick together.
Without a doubt, art teachers played a significant role in my career. The connection I felt with my art teachers was unlike any other. In high school, my drawing and painting teacher encouraged me to go to art school, which led to a career as a graphic designer.
As the Art Director at AOEU, my goal is to translate what we do into cohesive visual graphics that appeal and are approachable to art teachers and administrators—yes, that’s you! While identifying the direction we wanted to take the branding, we needed to understand who we were speaking to. We want to be constantly mindful of what you stand for and how AOEU can help you grow. With this, designing with emotion and feeling is always at the forefront of my mind.
The AOEU brand is uplifting, energetic, and approachable. The new-look has enhanced the best parts of us here at AOEU and made us more unified as we present all the ways in which we can help you grow.
When it comes to branding, don’t you want to be consistent? Why not stick with what people recognize? These are great questions, and each company’s brand evolution is unique to that company. Updating a brand is a lot like teaching.
If you’ve been teaching for a while, you have the general lay of the land. You know the order in which you like to teach different units. Each year you’ll add some new things, experiment with the order, and one day you realize while everything is working, some refinements may make a bigger impact on your students.
That’s where we found ourselves at AOEU. We had an established brand with a lot going for it, but we’ve grown and changed over the last eight years. We’ve added products and services that help art teachers achieve different goals. In marketing, it’s our responsibility to make sure we are communicating as clearly as possible. Visuals help us do that.
Fellow marketer, Debbie Millman, explains in her article, Identity and Impact (the Evolution of Your Brand), why visuals are important to a business’ brand. “People do not read first. First and foremost, they see color. Then they see numbers, then shape, and then if you still have their attention and they understand what you put in front of them, then they will read.” With this in mind, AOEU’s marketing team needed to take a step back and think about how we can use our brand to communicate more clearly with art teachers.
While the process and the steps of rebranding will vary, we took a logical, streamlined approach.
We began the rebranding process by conducting an audit of our current brand. We needed to take a deep look at what is working and not working. We compared web pages, handouts, resources, and more. We decided AOEU has a unique voice, look, and feel that resonates with art educators across the country. We didn’t want to change that. We also saw room to build a more cohesive brand to support our evolving product offering.
All our previous branding:
During our research, we realized something we didn’t want to change was the use of color. However, like artists and art teachers everywhere, we had to be more selective and intentional with our use of color. We had to take stock of all the different elements and our departments to make clear choices about when and how to use certain colors.
This process starts with a lot of ideas ranging from simple to abstract. The goal during this stage is to brainstorm several options. We look at what’s working and what’s not working to lead us to the final destination. Some design firms will use a 24-hour “Makeathon” to generate ideas.
All the options on the table:
In his article, To Create The Future of Brand Identity, IDEO Looks Inward, Michael Hendrix, director of Ideo in Boston, explains the benefits of rapid concepting, “It forces us to follow our instinct, it forces us to communicate quickly with one another. [Because] you can overthink it. And going at a fast past, and doing it with so many people, you can get to a pretty good idea quickly, without getting yourself caught in some kind of cyclical puzzle.” It also got us thinking about how artists and art teachers generate ideas. Perhaps you could utilize a makeathon process with your students.
The best part of working at AOEU is our team. We are constantly growing, open to change for the better, and are thoughtful in feedback. Everyone is hyper-dedicated to what AOEU stands for and how we are influencing art education worldwide. Many members of our team are art educators who know what it is like to be in your shoes. We understand the joy and challenges of the classroom and the passion teaching requires.
Upon the first reveal, our team said:
After such a positive reception, we knew we were headed in the right direction and could double-down and further our concept.
As with any process, it’s not over when we receive feedback. We needed to make some key decisions. Where do updates need to be made? When is the appropriate time? How will these work together?
We are still in the process of making these updates. That’s one of the most unique things about AOEU’s brand. We’re evolving just like your classroom and students. As art education changes, we will, too. To reflect the unique needs of art teachers and the rapid pace of today’s society, we need to have a growth mindset when it comes to branding.
AOEU’s New Look:
Some established companies want to be static. They call it consistency. For us, not moving forward is boring, out of touch, and wholely unrelatable. Good branding is just like you and me—we know exactly who we are. Our traits and values, those are not going anywhere. But over time, we will grow and learn and adapt. AOEU will do the same.
Are you thinking about undergoing a rebrand of something you do in your classroom or with your students? Use this handout to help.
On February 4th, the new brand officially landed on the site. You’ll notice a few big changes (the navigation bar at the top) and smaller ones, too. Take a look around the site and see what stands out to you. Know what you think and how you feel matters to us. I’d love to hear from you!
Contact Nolan at email@example.com.
What do you think about this update?
Which parts of AOEU’s website, resources, articles, and videos resonate most?