HMC Reveals Rebranding Plans

A new logo, updated typography and colors, and a seal incorporating an authentic Möbius strip are all part of the new branding materials Harvey Mudd College will introduce this year.

HMC’s Assistant Vice President of Communications and Marketing Tim Hussey announced the changes, whose adoption are part of the broader goal of increasing HMC’s name recognition, in an e-mail sent to the HMC community Sept. 17.

“For several years, my primary goal has been to raise the visibility of HMC,” HMC President Maria Klawe said. “As a very young institution, there are some things we did pretty well, but there are other things where it just takes time to have enough resources to become more professional and more polished.”

HMC hopes that the rebranding effort, facilitated by the Atlanta-based firm Mindpower, will accomplish several goals that were outlined at the beginning of the rebranding process.

“The goals we set forth were: to help the college attract more highly qualified underrepresented and international students, to ensure that our academic grant applications are even more successful, to safeguard for the future by bolstering fundraising, to support our alumni by increasing the value of the HMC degree, to strengthen our students’ applications to grad schools, and to implement STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] education nationally,” Hussey wrote.

Based on Mindpower’s recommendations, HMC will revamp the college’s website, merchandise, and paraphernalia, expand the college’s color palette, and rework publications including admissions materials and the HMC magazine. Other branding changes were outlined in an e-mail announcement to faculty, staff, and students.

“Any student who gets into Mudd will have gotten into MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], Caltech, Stanford, Harvard, Yale … and all of those are an awful lot better known than we are,” Klawe said. “We are basically launching the brand name and taking it around the country this fall.”

Another focus of the rebranding is diversifying the applicant pool, in which African-Americans and women have been underrepresented historically, Klawe and Hussey said. Women currently make up 47 percent of HMC’s student body.

Klawe added, “It was important for us to do this branding exercise because we’re going into our first public campaign in 17 years.” The fundraising campaign, which will last seven years, will be used to fund two new residence halls and an academic building, hire more faculty, expand financial aid, and support student research, Klawe wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

To make rebranding recommendations, Mindpower interviewed more than 150 students, faculty, staff, trustees, and alumni. The company prepared a 64-page report on the findings and presented its initial proposal in April.

“When the folks from Mindpower came back with the results for the first set of presentations, the faculty applauded,” Klawe said. “I’ve actually never seen that happen. But the overall idea—they just absolutely nailed it.”

The HMC Board of Trustees reviewed the proposal in May, and minor adjustments were made over the summer, according to Hussey’s e-mail. The college plans to implement changes in merchandise and publications as the school year progresses, while students can already find HMC water bottles and other merchandise around campus.

The rebranding also includes updating the college seal, which professor Jerry Van Hecke HM ’61 pointed out did not reflect the original design, Hussey wrote in the e-mail announcement. 

“I served as student member of the committee that designed the seal back in 1959 and thus have a vested interest in seeing it is treated correctly,” Van Hecke, a chemistry professor, wrote in an e-mail to TSL. 

“The seal is being changed back to what it original was when adopted by the trustees in 1960,” he wrote. “The source of the major difference is the difficulty in projecting a Moebius strip, which is a 3-dimensional object, onto a flat 2-dimensional surface. The revisionist seal designer(s) gave up and simply put ellipses around the sun and globe rather than the Moebius strip projection.”

Student reaction to the new materials has been mixed, according to Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College President Travis Athougies HM ’14.

“Some people like the updated look, some people find the design too plain, and some people feel it’s not very ‘Mudd,’” Athougies wrote in an e-mail to TSL.

Faculty members and students expressed a variety of opinions on how the rebranding campaign could help the college. 

“My initial impressions [of the rebranding] were more positive than I thought, but I haven’t seen enough at this point to know where it’s going,” chemistry professor Bill Daub said. “More opportunities would be created only if it led to more money for the college; I don’t think the rebranding itself creates more opportunities.”

“I guess it would take away some of Harvey Mudd’s mystique, but it would blend more with its reputation,” Jacob Higle-Ralbovsky HM ’16 said. 

“It would be nice to have [HMC] be better recognized, but I don’t want some sort of massive ‘come to Mudd’ campaign,” Micah Pedrick HM ’17 said. “It’ll be fine as long as they don’t try too hard.” 

Addressing some people’s lingering concerns, Klawe pointed out the distinction between changing the college itself and changing how others perceive the college.

“We are not trying to change what HMC is—though we are constantly trying to get better—but we’re trying to communicate to the outside world more clearly what makes HMC special,” she said.

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