Gunnison and Crested Butte Schools Branding Project

Dear Teachers, Staff, Families, and Community Members:

This message includes an update on an important new process: branding the Gunnison Watershed School District (GWSD), which includes the schools in Gunnison and Crested Butte. 

Key messages within this update (additional detail below):

  • We are developing a formal brand for our district and schools, to help attract more resources to our classrooms by strengthening our stories of success
  • We are about halfway through the project, having just completed a series of six focus groups and 11 interviews with teachers, staff, parents and community members
  • There is still an opportunity for you to participate! Survey link below.

What is a brand, and why are we working on ours?

“Brand” means a lot of things to a lot of people, but it’s more than just a logo. Brand is synonymous with reputation — the words, ideas, images and emotions that come to mind for someone when they think of an organization, product, or company. In that sense, GWSD already has a brand! There are ways in which our families, teachers and others think of us today. 

What this effort is about, then, is taking a proactive approach to shaping those associations. We know that the most successful organizations are incredibly thoughtful about how their brand is presented. They carefully choose the words, symbols, colors, and images that represent what makes them authentically unique, as well as how they interact with their stakeholders or customers.

Through this branding effort, we are making choices to help ensure that how we are perceived is true to who we actually are and what makes us great. We want to be sure that everyone who matters to our students’ success knows exactly what we believe, what we do, and why that is important. By sharing our story with our stakeholders in more compelling ways, we will strengthen support for our students and our schools. 

How a brand is developed, and where we are in our process

There are four phases in our branding project: discovery, research, messaging and visual identity. Each one of them is grounded in strategic thinking. It can be helpful to imagine these phases as a funnel that is wide at the top and narrows toward the bottom. 

In the beginning of the process, we’ve cast a very wide net. In the discovery phase, our branding partner reviewed piles of documentation and led district leaders through an in-depth series of creative exercises — all aimed at understanding who we are and our vision for how we want to be perceived. The next phase focused on research, and included strategic conversations with families, teachers, staff, Board members, and community members to glean representative perspectives on what makes our schools special. This exploration included six focus groups and 11 key person interviews involving more than 50 stakeholders. 

Our research will include one final step. We heard from many people who couldn’t attend a focus group but wanted to contribute. So, we asked our branding partner to adapt some of the focus-group questions into a brief survey. Click here to complete a four-minute survey and tell us what you think! 

As we move through the next phases, we will synthesize what we learned in discovery and research into unifying themes that represent what we heard from our community and help us put our best foot forward. Our branding partner will develop new messages and craft visual symbols (logos, colors, fonts) that we will put into place on our website, email communications, flyers, etc. Our aim is to develop messages and graphic elements that bring us together — helping to convey that the schools in Gunnison and Crested Butte are all part of the same district — and prepare us to share a consistent and compelling story with our stakeholders. 

Who is involved in branding, and how decisions will be made

There are three important partners in our process — our community (that’s you!), district staff, and our branding agency. 

We selected our branding agency, Springboard Communications, in large part because they specialize in working with education organizations and have specific experience shaping brands for schools and school districts, both in the Colorado mountains and on the front range.

Our community has been and will be involved through every step in this process. In addition to wide participation in the discovery and research phases, a Branding Advisory Committee made up of parents, teachers, and community members will provide feedback on the creative concepts that are developed. Rather than basing their feedback on their personal preferences, the committee will be asked to evaluate potential messages and visual components against everything we learned in the discovery and research phases. In other words, does a potential tagline or logo reflect what the community said about what makes our schools great?

Based on the recommendations from Springboard and feedback from the advisory committee, district staff will select the final messages and graphic elements to be adopted. Again, this will be a strategic decision — considering who we authentically are and how we want to be regarded by our stakeholders, and choosing the best possible representation of our schools and district.

Timeline and Next Steps

Our branding project will conclude in the spring, and we will share additional updates with you in the New Year.

Thank you –

– Leslie

Leslie Nichols, EdD │ Superintendent | Gunnison Watershed School District | 800 North Boulevard, Gunnison, Colorado 81230 | office 970 641 7760 | www.gunnisonschools.net | pronouns: she/her/hers