Don’t worry, Wildcats, your T-shirt logos and true colors aren’t due for an overhaul anytime soon. But you may begin to notice a few subtle changes around campus, thanks to Alan Rellaford. A Chico State grad and graphic arts instructor there for 10 years, Rellaford is the school’s new creative director. Sounds fun, huh? Well, it’s actually no easy gig. Rellaford, who has worked with corporate identity, advertising and graphic design for 25 years, will be taking a long, hard look at the messages Chico State sends, to prospective students, visitors and those currently enrolled. From signs on campus to the Web site and, yes, even all the goodies in the bookstore, if it has to do with the university’s identity, Rellaford is in charge.
What will you be doing with the university’s identity?
My job is to be the brand leader, if you will. The notion of brands encompasses the identity—what we would call the logo, colors, typography, the visual components. The brand is a much bigger idea. So it’s really sort of managing the experience, and making sure that what we say or show is in alignment with who we are, what our values are—are we being genuine to who we want to be?
What’s your biggest challenge?
The biggest challenge is in prioritizing the opportunities. Ours is one of the first campuses in the country that embraced the idea of an institutional identity. The guy who was responsible for that is a close colleague of mine, was my adviser and one of my teachers. And he created the identity in the 1970s. It’s been modified somewhat over the years. The biggest challenge is going to be to look at that and see what parts of this still work for us and what parts could work better?
The school works pretty hard to rid itself of the “party school” image. Will you be involved in that?
I don’t have express orders, or even implied orders, to change that image, per se. I think the idea is that if we can tell the really positive stories, rather than the myths and the legends, in a compelling way, then they will outshine the rumors and myths and legends. The evidence is there every single year. We look at students who go on to national competitions, and we look at student athletes who are national champions. Those are the stories that I think make the legends shrink in importance.
What’s your first priority as far as the school’s identity is concerned?
To look for opportunities—what I call low-hanging fruit. When you look at it from somebody else’s perspective, someone who’s never walked on campus before, and you think, “Is that really the best way to do it? Is that really what we want to say?” to look for those types of things that make us say, “This isn’t a true reflection of who we are,” and fix them. Some studies have shown that the decision of what campus to attend is made within about 15 minutes of stepping onto that campus. So, what do we look like?