SMAD students and professor help hatch new school’s logo

Media Arts and Design

by Christian Wright


Harrisonburg’s new high school, which opens next year, needed an identity, and SMAD professor Adrienne Hooker saw the branding of Rocktown High School as an opportunity for students.

Hooker worked with students at Harrisonburg High School to start the logo development process and later with her SMAD 332 “Visual Communication Design” class to create designs related to Rocktown’s name and its mascot, “Rocky the Raptor.”

In October, members of Rocktown High School “decision-making” committee as Hooker called it, selected the design they liked best to be the official logo and branding kit for Rocktown High. After considering proposed logos that Hooker and groups from the SMAD 332 class created, the committee chose Hooker’s mascot design and the logotype work of Alysun Sanders and Kayla Olden, both juniors in SMAD’s Interactive Design concentration.

“I was so excited,” Sanders said. “It was a tangible opportunity for our work to be seen.”

Bringing Rocktown High School’s new brand to life has been more than a year in the making.

In the spring of 2022, the Harrisonburg City Public Schools hired Hooker’s company, two six seventy7 creative, LLC, with the task of working with students to design Rocktown’s graphics and logos in preparation for when the school opens in fall 2024. Being involved with the district’s school system as an Education Foundation Board member and parent whose children attend Harrisonburg schools, Hooker saw a chance to combine her passions for making a brand come to life and guiding students through the design process.

Hooker first worked with a Harrisonburg High computer graphics class, showing the students how to research and brainstorm when beginning a design project. The final assignment in that class instructed students to produce refined sketches of raptors and related ideas for Rocktown’s new logo.

“I very much knew we would not see a final prototype,” Hooker said. “The class was set more on research and sketching.”

She took the high school students’ initial ideas to her SMAD 332 class this fall, where those students — in teams of two — further developed what would become Rocktown’s official design package, including both Rocktown’s athletic logos and the school’s academic logo. Hooker said she wanted her students to consider how all the elements would work together to create the school brand’s overall look and feel.

“I made them think about Rocktown High School as a whole and all the different branding for the school itself — not just the athletic type,” Hooker said.

The SMAD 332 logo project took roughly five weeks. The class voted on three logo design packages as the top choices, which Hooker pitched to the decision-making committee. That group’s members includes Rocktown High’s Principal Tamara Mines, Rachel Linden, Rocktown’s new head of counseling; Jonathan Middleton, Rocktown’s new Athletic Director; Kelly Lineweaver, the district’s coordinator of policy and communication; and school board member Kirsten Loflin.

That’s when the group selected the logotype that Sanders and Olden created to go along with Hooker’s mascot design.

Olden said she and Sanders split the beginning of the project “half and half,” then she mainly oversaw selecting the design’s typeface, while Sanders worked on the logos — both athletic and academic.

Sanders began her process researching raptors and raptor-related logos to gain inspiration. She frequently asked herself “What is a raptor?” to guide her work.

Sanders said she spent the most time in the sketching phase, drawing several raptors to emphasize their “strong” and “fierce” characteristics.

She imported her sketches into Adobe Illustrator to see if they looked appealing digitally, and after returning to the drawing board once or twice, she said one design stood out.

Once she and Olden found the best raptor and matching type, the project was “an easy flow from there,” Sanders said.

When Hooker and Sanders presented the brand implementation to the Harrisonburg City School Board on Oct. 17, board members saw the school's new logo for the first time on an assortment of clothing, signs, business cards and other items on which the school will print graphics.

“The board seeing that (the presentation) made the school come to life and made people excited,” Sanders said.


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Published: Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Last Updated: Tuesday, February 20, 2024

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