Linn-Benton Community College knew it needed a new look. It also needed to reframe a conversation. How could this dynamic institution overcome its perception challenges? After a thorough search for an experienced branding design partner, LBCC chose the MAC.
Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC) serves two counties with campuses spread across four cities. Its 18,000 students represent a diversity of ethnicities, age groups, and socio-economic backgrounds. Plus, not everyone is pursuing a college degree — many take classes for personal or professional development, or even just for fun. With so many moving parts, how could the college tell a unified story?
Perhaps more importantly, how could it tell a story that would empower faculty, staff, and students to embrace their shared strengths? Students who face a confidence gap may see themselves as last-choice students. Nationwide, community colleges themselves face a similar stigma. Yet with an excellent student-to-instructor ratio of 18:1, and a faculty culture of passion and creativity, LBCC and its students are the opposite of a last choice. They needed a brand that could help them believe it.
Working closely with the college’s Office of Institutional Advancement, and informed by the input of hundreds of LBCC faculty, staff, and students, we created an inspiring new brand that reinvents the conversation from the ground up, inviting students of all walks and stages of life to open doors and develop their dreams.
LBCC needed an identity refresh — something more welcoming and forward thinking. Specifically, they wanted the new look-and-feel to represent its 50+ year history while at the same time maturing the brand into one that’s inspiring, inclusive, and purpose-driven.
The college serves both Linn and Benton counties — two demographically-distinct communities — and offers more than 85 unique programs of study. Their 18,000 students represent a diverse spectrum of backgrounds and aspirations. With so many different pieces, it wasn’t clear how to paint one unified picture.
It also wasn’t clear how to overcome the stigma around community colleges in general. Could perception be reshaped to match the college’s real strengths and value?
Finally, our client needed a comprehensive plan and trusted partner to help roll out its new identity across LBCC’s many departments and campuses.
For students facing a confidence gap, Linn-Benton Community College wanted to empower them to embrace their potential and develop a healthy sense of pride in themselves and their school.
Working closely with the college’s 20-member rebrand task force, and informed by additional input from more than 800 faculty, staff, and students, the MAC engaged in an in-depth research phase to develop a strategy and foundation for LBCC’s new branding.
To begin, our survey of the LBCC community confirmed the need to refresh the branding; 78% of respondents said it should either be updated or entirely replaced. And based on findings from our brand audit, we knew there needed to be more consistency in the college’s look and feel, from email templates to brochures to products in the bookstore.
Then, during a half-day messaging workshop we facilitated with LBCC stakeholders it was uncovered that in order to empower students, the tone of the brand would need to be inspiring, supportive, and purposeful. In other words, it needed to express the culture of creative innovation at LBCC, to help students see a way forward even when they’re not sure if one exists, and to tie every statement to the aspiration that drives it.
We also discovered that the new brand would need to position LBCC not just as a starting point for a great education, but as a finish line as well — overturning the perception that success can only be achieved by continuing on to a four-year university.
Based on what we learned, we began to develop the brand messaging and logo concepts. An iterative approach was followed to create, review and refine ideas — a process further bolstered by focus groups with key target audiences.
The tone of the brand needed to appeal to a diverse audience, while intentionally bucking the community college stigma with language designed to instill school pride not only in the student body, but in faculty and staff as well.
We developed a positioning statement, elevator pitches, and other messaging components to be unifying and feel genuine. Some of the public-facing messages mirror the hyphen in Linn-Benton:
We’re dream-developers. We’re door-openers. We’re game-changers.
We also flipped the script when communicating with students who face a confidence gap:
LBCC is your community college. And you are our first choice.
Next, the visual identity. We developed a robust and flexible system for logo application that emphasizes the hyphen between Linn and Benton: bridging the gap between counties, communities, and cultures. The icon’s stylized roadrunner represents progress and forward thinking.
The identity system also includes a monogram, an alternative acronym (LB) to serve as a recognizable shorthand and spirit mark, as well as a sub-branding system to be utilized by departments and programs throughout the LBCC community.
Altogether, the messaging and logo design elements — combined with a matured color palette, fonts, and other tools we developed — are detailed in a comprehensive brand book. LBCC staff and student leaders are now empowered to use the branding in ways that demonstrate consistency and professionalism across the college’s entire system.
The MAC has been the best partner I could have asked for in this journey. Together we reached a huge milestone for LBCC, and I’m tremendously grateful for their partnership and support.
Linn-Benton Community College needed more than a new identity. It needed to change the conversation, transform stigma into selling points, unite diverse communities and offerings across a two-county region, and make its true strengths shine through. With insight, creativity and strategic thinking, the MAC helped LBCC develop those dreams.
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