Friday, May 25, 2012

Branding The Next Generation

Source: Hyperakt
Brand or be branded. That is the warning for today's students. With mounting digital dossiers, young people are knowingly or unknowingly building online profiles. Born Digital and other publications attest to these growing data footprints, often initiated by parents while their progeny are still in utero. If children do not seize control of their own personal identities in social networks, they will be at the mercy of Facebook timelines and Google trackbacks. Students must brand themselves -- speak, or be spoken for.

"Personal branding" used to be a self-help platitude for acknowledging one's inner magnetism. Now it refers to the way individuals or groups are perceived by the world at large. Each generation, for example, receives a mainstream label based on vaguely defined epochal traits. Today's teens, however, are not easily pigeon-holed. It's no wonder that the amorphous modern IDs of "Generation X" and "Millennials" can't compete with snappy historical monikers like the "Lost Generation" and "Baby Boomers."

Source: Online Graduate Programs and Fast Co.Design
The next cohort of young people will create their own trademarks. Presidential candidates know this power of personal branding in selling themselves to prospective voters. Whether intentional or not, today's students will forever be searchable in defining themselves to future employers and mates. Teachers have always taught students to polish resumes and to practice interview responses. Now, we need to do the same for social media profiles.

Basil C. Puglisi, Executive Director for Digital Brand Marketing Education, argues that social media sites are like dating sites, where a combination of networking and sharing can help shape the persona one puts forward. The Student Branding Blog aims to help young people mold this individual positioning with advice and tools. Nick Nanton, who aids Hollywood stars in defining their celebrity trademarks, notes that "persistence pays" in not being afraid to "reinvent yourself."

Source: Hyperakt
In the vein of reinvention, teachers have lately seen their time-honored brand destroyed by attacks and scapegoating from state politicians. Even without vilification, teachers' "apple" and "ABC" identities have not kept up with modern times. Recently, WNYC's Studio 360 asked design firm Hyperakt to "create a new visual vocabulary that reflects the multidimensional role of the teacher." The initiative noted that:
"Teachers are currently represented by uninspiring, childish visual imagery. Images like apples, chalkboards, and the ABCs neither revere the profession of teaching nor do justice to the intellectual and creative development teachers help guide in students of all ages."
Hyperakt came up with new imagery to evoke connectivity, discovery, and process. The new branding effort envisions teaching as "connecting the dots."

Source: Hyperakt
To teach students about branding, a good place to start is with a brief visual history, including the wool tartan patterns of the 1500s that identified a clan's geographic home and the livestock irons on the 1800s that distinguished cattle ownership. Then, students can try to identify the logos of popular modern companies. Also, students can draw their own logos to "brand" whatever they are studying. For example, they can imagine emblems for historical eras or literary characters. They can devise icons for periodic table elements or Greek gods. This hands-on activity fosters symbolic thinking. Teachers can even brand their own projects and assignments.



A nice primer for students is the video "Personal Branding - What Color Is Your Brand?" from William Arruda at Reach Personal Branding. This easily digestible clip features plenty of nuggets about marketing and color associations. It is perfect for a media literacy lesson or for students to watch before creating their own insignia.

Source: Noupe
Another favorite site is Logopedia, an open-source wiki that features the logo evolutions of thousands of well-known brands. Designs are searchable by name or by theme (such as, "logos with a star"). Noupe magazine also highlights "Creative Brainstorming: 50 Examples Of The Logo Design Process." This terrific visual anthology of doodles, redesigns, and mock-ups can guide students in artistically generating their own ideas. Finally, the kid-friendly lesson "Super Brand," from the New York Times Learning Network, encourages students to trace the evolution of the Super Bowl logo and apply the same principles to creating their own brands.

For tools and websites to create customized student logos, check out our resources page.

Other resources for students include:

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