Harlem Academy is a co-ed, independent day school for children “whose aptitude for success in higher education might otherwise go unnoticed.” The school’s innovative curriculum combines academics, arts, and athletics with an extended-day format and a mandatory family-involvement commitment.
Founded in 2004 with 12 students, Harlem Academy today offers grades one through eight. As the school entered its adolescence, a new brand strategy and visual identity were necessary to confidently solicit major donors, build deeper relationships with individuals and organizations in the community, and communicate consistently and effectively. Developing both a visual identity and the communication tools to promote that identity required significant reflection about the school’s past, present, and future.
Matching the rigor and organization of Harlem Academy, a research-based process was used to evaluate the school’s identity through interviews, surveys, comparative research, and vision-clarity workshops. A visual identity both sophisticated and progressive emerged, characterized first by a new logo. The triple-bar logo focuses on the school’s name, establishing synonymous name and brand recognition. A broad color palette and flexibility to shift messaging in the third bar offer flexibility within the logo’s graphic parameters.
The visual identity expanded through a creative storytelling process that helped Harlem Academy identify seven core attributes of the school – rigorous, joyful, independent, transformational, principled, analytical, efficient, and collaborative. Abandoning such generic terms as curriculum, faculty, or students, the core tenets and the design of related infographics become the guide for a new overview book, which serves as the primary communication vehicle for donors and families, and sets the tone for other collateral materials. The strategy communicates academic excellence and the school’s strong individuality.