In 2021, the timing was right to rethink the branding for Toronto’s Kingsway College School (KCS). After 35 years, this well-loved private school was expanding from K-8 to a second senior school campus for grades 9-12.
What we saw was a whole child vision built on powerful foundations. Ones that were not coming across in the school’s more traditional, athletic branding. Our research showed that private school brands often look heraldic, filigreed and conservative, but that more progressive schools like KCS were leaning into iconography.
When a school is this beloved with rock solid values, sometimes the problem isn’t the brand, it’s the branding. Our design journey led us to propose a more modern design system, with more fitting energy and meaning.
We took each of the school’s Four Doors of Learning (Academics, Arts, Athletics and Citizenship) and represented them as pictographs that express their core meanings. Pictographs are powerful, pre-written language and used to replace words.
For example, “Athletics” is shown as three straight lines that reference lanes on a field or stripes on a jersey.
The same approach applied to the Three School Rules (Respect, Manners, Try Your Best), where a pictograph for “Manners” is two parts, or two people, that look like a smile.
A visual vocabulary then emerged where individual pictographs/words could be designed together to form groups of pictographs/sentences and symbolic visual paragraphs. This flexibility easily translated into colourful collages of pictographs across different media.
Since the Four Doors of Learning are the essence of the school’s ethos, we built them into a school crest – which became the new logo. Then, because everyone we spoke to shortened the name to KCS, it seemed clear the branding should be KCS. But a secondary option spelled out the name, when used off campus.
The KCS brand is being expressed in a microsite, signage and merchandise that we’re told is going to fly off the shelves. The new campus – from grade nine to 12 – will soon open and build on the exciting KCS design system.
It was no small feat developing a new brand during the height of the pandemic, which hit schools especially hard. But the teams persevered and seeing the reactions to newly branded KCS said it all.
Visual design system, adaptable to any expression of the brand, across any media.
The KCS crest is now as modern, differentiating and progressive as the school itself.
We continue to work with KCS to design signage throughout the campus.
From students to the board, everyone feels like the heart of KCS is now expressed in its look.