Established in 1903, the Rhodes Trust at the University of Oxford is the organization responsible for awarding the prestigious Rhodes Scholarships, with the mission to “identify and develop leaders to achieve public good”. The Trust and Scholarships were formed from the will of Cecil RhodesRhodesia, whose flag and coat of arms depicted a Zimbabwe Bird, which in turn is depicted on the Trust’s logo. Back to the Trust… Earlier this year, the organization introduced a new identity designed by Lambie-Nairn.
The previous brand focused too heavily on the past and did not reflect the academically excellent, determined and above all conscientious students. Conducting desk research, focus groups and stakeholder interviews we derived five key truths that we encapsulated in a new brand idea — Standing up for the world.
The Zimbabwe mythical bird is not only kept for the equity of the brand but also modernized and simplified at the centre of the letter R. This is a clever solution that works well at small sizes (on-screen, mobile app, etc) as well as a form of shorthand. The R is bold and can be integrated within meaningful words (WORLD, TOGETHER, DEMOCRACY, HUMAN RIGHTS, BIODIVERSITY) as part of its distinctive tone of voice. A richer blue is also opted to ensure to fit in more with the current digital space.
Lambie-Nairn provided text
The old logo was somewhat decent if you can ignore the whack alignment of the elements. The typography was stately and the bird drawing — while lacking finesse — made it look serious and important. The new logo beautifully modernizes the bird and cleverly embeds it in the negative space of the “R”. The original concept by Lambie-Nairn was refined by Rob Clarke. It’s a great solution that keeps the seriousness of the organization but adds a touch of playfulness. My only complaint about the bird-monogram is the curve between the eye and the beak that, for some reason, it does not end in a thin wisp like the other two curves and it becomes a thicker splotch of white as the logo reduces (not to mention, it’s inconsistent). The wordmark, in Gotham Narrow I believe, is fine… I think this logo would have benefited tremendously from a serif wordmark. Nonetheless, the overall impact of the new logo is excellent.
The applications are fairly straightforward, with the main visual hook being the “R” monogram embedded into important words. It works well — especially in those newsletter and magazine mastheads — and is a somewhat fun way of extending the presence of the monogram. The image directly above (while only a render) shows that maybe there is too much of the same things going on: too much uppercase, too much blue, too much Gotham. Overall, though, this is a great evolution that maintains the gravitas of the Trust and Scholarships but without looking like a cult from the turn of the twentieth century.