OPRFHS unveils first official brand guidelines since 1908

OPRFHS unveils first official brand guidelines since 1908

Student design team cements place in school history by leading three-year effort. (L-R: Tim Mellman, Leigh Maliff, Georgia Smith, Hodari Motley)

Oak Park and River Forest High School unveiled its official brand guidelines, which will provide stakeholders with clear and thorough directions on the use of various design elements associated with OPRFHS, including the crest, Huskie face, and athletics shield. The effort marks the first time in more than 100 years that any branding work was completed.

“We had so many different versions of our huskie dog, paw print, and shields,” OPRFHS visual arts and graphic design teacher Lindy Novotny said. “The high school’s visual identity was a mystery.”

Lee Watson, a manual arts teacher, originally designed the school crest in 1908, and the principal at the time chose the Greek phrase Ta’Garista (“the best”) to emblazon across it. Decades later, this crest was still the main graphic symbol for the school; however, at least a dozen other design elements were also regularly used by stakeholders. This inconsistency caused confusion and did not accurately reflect the OPRFHS brand.

In 2019, student designers began what ultimately ended up being a three-year effort to define and showcase the OPRFHS brand in a consistent and cohesive manner. They are: Leigh Maliff, class of 2022; Tim Mellman, class of 2022; Hodari Motley, class of 2023; Sam Schenkelberg, class of 2021; and Georgia Smith, class of 2022.

Entrusting students with the project was the right choice according to Maliff. “Students are imaginative, detail-oriented, and work well in groups,” she said. “Allowing students to take this on encourages more of them to be creative and contribute to the school as well.”

Mellman was tasked with tweaking the crest, which involved updating its colors to match the school’s official orange and blue, and refining its lines, including those of its three trees, which symbolizes both the “park” in Oak Park and the “forest” in River Forest.

“I may be a good designer, but I really struggle with making organic shapes,” he said. “The trees became the bane of my existence over the first few months of quarantine. I spent as much of my free time as I could attempting to design the trees, so much so that the entire branding project became known in my family as ‘the 50-Hour Tree.’”

Working under the guidance of Novotny, fellow OPRFHS visual arts and graphic design teacher Val White, and the OPRFHS communications department, the small cohort of students designed multiple visual elements, including a Huskie face featuring two eye colors (a common distinguishing feature of the Husky dog breed), a paw print, an athletics shield, uniform logos, and logos for 90+ OPRFHS clubs and activities. They also created multiple variations of the crest to be used on letterheads, business cards, and email signatures, and selected accent colors and official fonts. All elements are combined in a comprehensive Branding and Style Guidebook.

“The students are incredibly capable and so conscientious about their work,” Novotny said. “I have been really impressed with their work ethic and their ability to stick with such a long project.”

“The magnitude of this project cannot be understated,” OPRFHS Communications and Community Relations Coordinator Jackie McGoey added. “These students volunteered their free time, outside of their regular classes, during summer months, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to get us to this point. I’m proud to have worked with them.”

The refreshed crest is already on display in the OPRFHS Welcome Center, in the 1 west gym, and most prominently, on the Book of Learning display in the Student Center. Stakeholders can view it in person at the upcoming Imagine OPRF Project 1 Open House on May 9, beginning at 5:30 p.m. Additional elements will roll out over time, digitally, in print, and on spiritwear.