Could A Rebranding Help Give Teachers The Prestige They Deserve?

The Brooklyn-based design studio Hyperakt schools teachers on honing their image through branding.

It’s a crappy time to be a teacher. The budget cuts. The overcrowded classrooms. The infuriating constraints of No Child Left Behind. To add insult to injury, teachers just aren’t represented terribly well in the media, whether they’re depicted as secular saints with apples on their desks or lazy union-enabled incompetents who hate your children. Could new branding help?

The Brooklyn design studio Hyperakt thinks so and has thusly devised a visual identity scheme that uses the metaphor of “connecting the dots” to portray teachers in a fresh, cheery light. “The visual language of these connected dots can be found in toys, in letter tracing, in classroom brainstorms, on the whiteboards of innovators, in maps, in molecular structures and beyond,” the designers say. “Connecting the dots allows us to create a boundless visual language that celebrates teaching and learning in a way we can all be proud of.”

Hyperakt came up with the concept at the behest of Kurt Andersen’s Studio 360, a public radio program about art and pop culture that has asked designers to rebrand everything from the gay-pride flag to Valentine’s Day. The impetus this go round: Kate Ahearn, a Haverhill, Massachusetts-based teacher, who wrote to Studio 360 last fall entreating them to redesign the image of teachers. "I have been teaching for 15-plus years and have enough of what I deem 'apple crapple’ to last me a lifetime,” she told them.

Hyperakt’s design thankfully does away with any hint of “apple crapple.” And all the other hokey, borderline infantilizing teacher tropes for that matter: ABCs, chalkboards, cartoonishly oversized pencils. Instead, the main component is the word “teach” rendered in chic Chevin, with the letterforms partially dotted and set against a school bus-yellow background. Okay, so you can’t eliminate all the hokey tropes.

From there, the logo can be easily customized. You can add on your school’s name or state or your subject matter. You can also generate a host of additional branding materials that transcend geographic locations and grade levels. That “Nurturing Brilliance” banner above would look just as good in a 10th-grade A.P. English classroom in Walnut Creek as it would in a kindergarten class in East Harlem. (And it certainly looks better than those tired "celebrities read" posters.)

Studio 360 featured the concept earlier this month, and since then, Hyperakt has developed an open-source companion website, InspireTeachers.org, full of connect-the-dots-themed logos, posters, calendars, and classroom signs. “Anyone can download the visuals and use them to celebrate teaching!” Hyperakt’s Deroy Peraza says. “We hope it spreads far and wide.”

That’s not to suggest that the design is some kind of quick fix. “We won’t pretend that a fresh coat of paint on the visual language used to represent teachers is going to solve all of the problems [facing the profession],” Peraza says. “But we do believe that attracting the brightest minds to the profession can sow the seeds of change. A visual language that does justice to the intellectual and creative development teachers help guide in students could be a powerful asset in attracting talent to the profession and instilling pride in teachers across the board.”

[Images courtesy of Hyperakt]

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10 Comments

  • Sandy

    Why didn't I think of that?  (First thing that came to my mind after being awakened to your brilliant idea to rebrand teaching. Wow.

  • alanrazee

    This redesign seeks to find an icon for teaching that eliminates the "apple crapple" composed of "borderline infantilizing" teaching tropes & icons like ABCs, 123s, chalkboards, pencils, apples & single-room school houses. (By the way: notice how many of those icons are representations of old technologies or frontier-like images.)

    That apple crapple, however, also includes the tired & cliche arguments & ideologies that enter into the discourse whenever people bring up the subject of education in America: poor teaching, union straggle-holds, state & federal government meddling, low pay, falling standards, lack of accountability, etc. Read & listen to how people respond to this rebranding effort & you may see & hear many of these apple crapple "argument tropes" .

  • betteridgeslaw

    Betteridge's Law activated: No.

    How about we fix the product itself first. I would be immediately skeptical if I saw someone trying to convince me that my high school physics teacher deserved this packaging.

  • Fantastic

    There are some great teachers out there that suffer because of a few bad eggs. The work is a great way to get people excited about the possibilities in teaching that we have forgotten about. It is inspired and has countless applications.

  • Cowboy_X

    Note that the materials are all licensed under Creative Commons non-commercial. Download, remix, invent.

  • Marmite88

    This rebranding represent all the best we know of teachers.  But branding is more than representative images - it must be verified at the "touch points" with the product.  We can all think back to one or two teachers who have inspired us in our youth - they're not the problem  Sadly, there are still enough 3rd tier (bad) teachers out there to erode our confidence in them as a group. 
    As I once heard "Where there is money, there are brains.".  No visual representation can replace that. So when teachers are paid better, and their unions are able to uphold standards based on the quality of teaching practices, they will begin to attract the brightest minds and greatest talent.

  • dan-designs.com

    Yes, money is the big issue here. Young teachers can be driven by big ideas for the first 2-5 years of teaching. Than the motivation dramatically drops and they simply don't care as the used to. 

  • Zirogravity

    While I agree that money is part of the problem. It is only a very small part. Other countries pay their teachers far less than you could ever imagine supporting a standard of living considered to be boarder line poverty by US standards. Yet their students come to the US for higher education blowing all of our own out of the water. I have reached a point where I almost believe that our government does not wan us to become educated because ignorance makes for better crowd control.

  • zirogravity

    The majority of teachers are not respected in this country because they are simply not educated enough to teach our children the subject matter details as demanded by today's fast paced advancements (all areas not just science and engineering but arts and history etc.). I can almost assure you that most children know how to use a computer multiple folds better than almost any teacher. In almost every country in the world teachers hold science and engineering degrees with corresponding experience in the field that they teach. For example Math courses are taught by Mathematicians who have experience in the field and not by someone who is generally educated with a little bit from here and a little bit from there with a focus on how to pass standardized tests. Teaching is about inspiring an individual to create new ideas and new ways of thinking not about how to follow instructions, color in between the lines, and pass tests. Of course this problem is only amplified by ridiculous regulations and policies that do not allow teachers to take control of their classroom. Trying to re-brand teachers is a cosmetic fix to a much deeper problem and such an approach only sends the message that the root cause is being ignored. Take off your bureaucratic hats (union and otherwise) and think of the future of your children, your country's future, and the state of the world. Then you will see that you will get the respect that your desire and you wont have to cover it up with dots.