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Making It

Could A Rebranding Help Give Teachers The Prestige They Deserve?

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

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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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