The Washington Leadership Academy
is a tech-focused public charter school based in Washington, DC. At ISL
, I was responsible for the concept and execution of their brand identity, while my colleague Alex Martinez
handled the UX and UI for their website. You can view an in-depth case study of that process here
We knew from the beginning this wasn’t your typical charter school—and they wanted to keep it that way. With an innovative curriculum, the latest technology utilized in the classrooms, and an impressive roster of experienced faculty, this was truly an institution with its focus aligned towards the future.
With that in mind, our initial sketches mirrored those sentiments through aesthetic properties such as geometric form, angular edges, and bold shapes. The result was a range of sketches that felt familiar and accessible, while still retaining the school’s intrepid and pioneering spirit in a subtle and abstract manner.
Of the three initial sketches presented to the client, the third option with the crest resonated the most for them. Our rationale behind this direction was to position WLA as a catalyst towards fostering the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs.
The crest was a natural decision based on this notion. It has become widely recognized as a symbol for prestige and legitimacy. We examined a range of crests, from sports teams to universities and even to royalty. But we quickly discovered the level of intricacy found within these crests would never be suitable for a forward-thinking brand such as the WLA.
So we removed everything except the form of the crest itself. This enabled the crest to function as a symbol for the WLA’s platform. With no elements held within the crest, it suddenly became a metaphor for the blank canvas students inherently create when pursuing their careers and studies.
We explored numerous variations upon this blank crest, even adding in a few abstract components within it as examples of how this crest could function as a flexible identity system, while still retaining the basic crest shape. This would be especially helpful for future internal departments, teams, or other additional groups created within the institution.
At the end of our initial black and white explorations, it came down to two final directions. The client chose the first option below, feeling it created a better sense of dynamism and integrity, while still functioning as a canvas for exploration and flexibility. We couldn’t have been happier with their choice! Minor tweaks were made, and then we began exploring color.
Throughout our color explorations, our identity continued to evolve. The interplay between stark contrasts of vibrant colors as shadows and tones not only alluded to the bold and diverse spirit of the WLA brand, but created a semi-impossible shape. For us, this further reinforced the notion of infinity and endless possibilities students could have.
We explored several color options, before narrowing them down to the following three. Rudimentary patterns were also explored, in order to demonstrate a preview of how this identity could be applied across different contexts.
The above color exploration was ultimately chosen by the client. We all agreed it was the most balanced of the ones presented, demanding attention without sacrificing its accessibility and flexibility.