What’s in a Name, Anyway?


So what do the 3 logos above have in common? When you see them you instantly recognize which school it is, and what characteristics come with that. It’s a promise or guarantees that if you come to that school you will walk away with a quality education.

With North Carolina lifting the cap on charter schools, there has been a large influx in schools of choice for parents and families. So what will be the difference between the ones that succeed and the ones that don’t? A strong administration is typically the key to bringing success. But how do you ensure that the strong beliefs and goals from the administration are translated into everything students, parents and teachers do daily?

First, you need to get the word out on who you are, what you believe in and the mission or promise you are giving parents in return for sending their child there.




Many people mistake their logo as their branding, but a logo is only one piece of a brand strategy. A logo is a symbol that can provide consumers with instant recognition of your school and the expectations parents have of that school.

Why brand before logo? Your logo is like a small ad for your school, but without the strategy behind it, a logo can put out the wrong message and in return weaken your consistent message of who you are. By keeping the message consistent you create a promise or guarantee that parents believe in and buy in to. When parents believe in the mission, you will in turn have more volunteers and fundraising participation.

As a Charter School that is constantly raising funds and competing against other charters for the same funds, this promise should be consistent and clear. The corporate world understands branding and they expect the same from schools who are asking for support.

There’s a lot of misunderstanding when it comes to developing a brand vs. a logo. Try and think of your brand, identity and logo like 3 Russian nesting dolls you see at Christmas. Your logo is a part of and fits inside your identity. Your identity is a part of and fits inside your brand. The overall doll is your Brand or who you are as a whole.


Many people assume that their brand only consists of the basic colors, fonts and symbols, but really, it is much more complicated than that. It’s the BIG picture. It’s how your school is perceived as a whole.

Your brand is a compilation of everything that your school does, what your students do and how they act or perform. Including the way your staff answers the phone, the way you handle teacher / parent disputes, what your testing results say, what schools your students get into; many additional factors all impact your image.

When it comes to your image, everything you do should exude the goals of your school and how you want to be perceived.


While your identity is separate from your brand, it contributes visually to your school’s image. For most schools their identity is developed around a visual system that is governed by a set of guidelines, i.e. approved colors, fonts, layouts, measurements, etc. These guidelines dictate how the identity is applied throughout a variety of marketing mediums (website, print, etc.). Having guidelines ensures that the identity of the school is cohesive, which in turn helps your brand as a whole look congruent.

Here are some visual elements that make up an identity:

• Your Logo (the symbol for your school)

• Marketing Collateral (website, business cards, letterhead, flyers, brochures, etc.)

• Apparel Design (clothing worn by students and teachers)

• Signs, Banners, Buses, Magnets, etc. (interior or exterior design)

• Any additional visual items that represent the school.

All of these items that make up an identity should support the brand as a whole.

This brings us to the logo. The logo is the school identity and brand all summed up into one identifiable mark. It is NOT your sports mascot – the mistake many schools make (unless sports are your main goal and mission).


A logo identifies a school via the use of a symbol, mark or signature. Try and think of logos like people. Just as it is easier to be called by our first name – Tom, Chris, Ashley, etc. – rather than by using a confusing description such as “the bald guy who always wears blue shirts with khaki pants”. Similarly, a logo shouldn’t literally describe who your school is, but rather clearly identify your school. Also, it is only after a logo becomes familiar that it functions the way it is intended.

So to recap, if you are creating a new school or just trying to further establish the one you have, don’t miss a great opportunity to brand your identity way before you create the logo. Many fall into the “we need an image for the website” trap before they really think about who they are and want to be. Establishing the brand of your school from the very beginning will help establish a consistent message for years. This will help build confidence among staff, parents and students, which will help you maintain goals and raise money when they believe in that promise.

For further information, check out this article on the top 10 lessons in branding your school.



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