Intro to the Client
Malta College of Arts, Science and Technology was established in 2001 and is Malta’s primary vocational education and training institution. Comprising of six Institutes in Malta and the Gozo Campus, MCAST offers 180 full-time and over 300 part-time vocational courses ranging from certificates to Master’s degrees (MQF Level 1 to Level 7).
Project Objectives and Requirements
The primary aim of this project was to re-establish the MCAST brand as a refreshed entity which has its younger student audience at heart, while at the same time maintain the prestige and status that its 20-year heritage provides.
As a college open to all ages and offering courses at different levels of achievement, MCAST has a varied target audience, however the majority are between 16 and 25 years, followed by 25-35 years and 35 years and up. Given its established good reputation with older age groups, the goal was to attract more young students to choose MCAST over its close competitors including the University of Malta, St Martins Institute and ICE, amongst others and launch on a commemorative date: their 20 years anniversary.
The project requirements were as follows:
- A new logo which is more modern, and which goes well with the College’s official crest
- A set of detailed Brand Guidelines which include social media application guidance
- Templates for social media, presentations and College documentation.
You might be thinking – what about their website?
Even though I specifically disagreed with the fact of treating the website as a separate project – one of the many reasons being that since a consistent and well-designed and branded online presence is one of the strongest points in targeting a younger audience – they decided to go ahead and not dedicate a reasonable budget to revamping the website 😦
MCAST – The Logo
The design for the logo for MCAST had very innovative beginnings; after researching what the other national entities are doing and also looking into international academies and universities for inspiration, I realised that MCAST had one specific thing which they were known for: hands-on learning. Learning and practicing the craft, achieving a certain level of precision, a focus on the vocation that the student signed up for. I tried to reflect that in the organic and geometric forms of the different logo formations, while keeping in mind that a simple symbol should remind the user of the brand straight away. This can be achieved by building the logo in a modular method: the pieces can be identified when apart, but are holistic when placed together.
The challenge lay in the fact that the client had previously assigned another freelancer to design a logo for them, however they were having issues with it as it was not flexible and too complex to be used for digital marketing applications; not to mention that the style was not exactly in line with the goal of ‘attracting the younger audience’. Despite all the Marketing team’s opposition, the management board did not want to part with it at all costs, and wanted it to have a significant role in the MCAST brand. Initially, another freelancer and I were chosen for this project, however this inflexible approach led to the other party dropping the project altogether. Seeing this, I realised I was on my own, yet acted upon it by discussing at length with the client’s lead decision makers in the marketing department which led to quite a successful outcome.
I suggested we get to a compromise in favour of the brand by reserving the use of the previously designed logo as the crest on certifications and official documents, and combining it with a modern word mark which when separated, they were still highly distinguishable. The word mark element would provide the necessary flexibility for social media profiles and digital marketing, which were the channels followed by the targeted young student audience. This solution provided the necessary workaround and maintained a balance between heritage and the modern upgrade which was the main objective of this whole project.
The second interesting challenge were the institutes. This was another factor that the previously designed logo was not catering for, however the modular thinking behind the brand I designed fill that gap. The Stylised M had an additional stroke which changed the colour according to the institute, therefore any advertising or social media posting was consistently branded as MCAST, however the colour attributed the attention to the particular institute. Of course, that would never be the only visual cue; the advert had wording and imagery according tot he course that is being offered, and the institute colour was applied throughout. Where space permitted, and for official Institute documentation, the full Institute logo would be placed, showcasing the full name of the Institute under the College Primary Logo alongside the Stylised M with the coloured stroke.
The Brand Guidelines
The Brand Guidelines were the second major part of the project. Since I was a freelancer and not part of the team, I had to make sure that anyone who reads them understands how to apply the new brand. I also conducted a workshop with the main stakeholders and presented the new brand and its applications. Amongst others, the brand manual explains and illustrates:
- The brand mission statement and tone of voice
- The new brand elements and correct and incorrect use
- The new brand elements for all institutes
- Brand element behaviour in designing for partnerships, hosting and third party events and scenarios
- Brand colours
- Photography guidelines
- Iconography – icon designs for multipurpose
- Brand application on stationery, gifts, signage and other items
- Brand application on social media, and a brief social media post guide
Results and Conclusion
This was my second major educational institute brand revamp (see University of Malta brand redesign), and I realised how two tough competitors are being held back by many similar factors. Maintaining prestige and heritage with reference to years of experience while being attractive to the younger audience might seem a tricky business – and it is – however, when analysing the situation, the audience and your marketing channels, I realised that this can be achieved by leveraging the right element at the right time, in the right place. Complex, ornate crests might not be ideal for digital marketing applications, but they enhance value and status when placed on degree certificates. Young students might be looking for a fresh view on education, however good reputation of long-standing brands is not something that is easily overlooked either.
Overall, I think that balance has been achieved with this brand, and even though I now have no control on its application, the guidance provided has a lot of potential that can only benefit this leading national education institution. In short, some immediate visible results were:
- Exceptional increase in brand flexibility
- Brand design and tone of voice is now in line with the target demographic
- MCAST has a clearer path and guidance towards website redesign and a far more consistent brand application methodology