Monday, June 10, 2013

The ASCUE Logo Process by Steve Weir, M.S.Ed. | Website Coordinator, ASCUE

This morning the Association Supporting Computer Users in Education, aka ASCUE, Inc., unveiled a new logo. A two year process has come to an end, and a new chapter has begun.

You may be thinking, “Two years? It took you two years to choose a logo?” To which I will simply say, “Yes.” You see, branding is more than just a logo, and the process is far more complicated than just poking around in Photoshop to create an image. Even in its simplest form branding is a five step process. Alina Wheeler, in her book Designing Brand Identity, explains the five steps - 1) Conducting Research 2) Clarifying Strategy 3) Designing Identity 4) Creating Touchpoints, and 5) Managing Assets.

We began this five step branding process at our 2011 conference. We gathered feedback from new and long-term members via focus groups. We asked them questions such as, “Why do you return to ASCUE every year?” or “What do you like best about ASCUE?” We heard responses like collaboration, networking, and the opportunity to know colleagues from other schools. Our members rely on each other for advice and recommendations regarding technology projects and new initiatives. In this research phase, we learned a lot about our members and what they value in ASCUE.

From there, the Board began crafting new mission and vision statements. After countless hours of wordsmithing, we developed and settled on statements that we hope will carry us many years into the future. As a communications director (that is, when I’m not doing work for ASCUE), I’ve always said that a mission statement is, “what you or your organization does best everyday.” A vision should articulate what the future looks like because you or your organization accomplish your mission so well. You can read these statements, which we presented to the membership and approved in June 2012, on the ASCUE website. Step two, accomplished.

Our new mission and vision statements became the basis for the next step of our branding conversation - designing the identity. Crafting the brand message was the first part. Every interaction or incarnation of your brand should convey the same message. That message is the story of your organization, who you are, what you do, why you do what you do, your DNA, etc.

Creating the visual representation of the brand is, by far, the hardest part. It always is. The symbols, colors, font, balance, and orientation of the design all have to encapsulate the DNA of your organization.  All these elements serve to create an identity that sets your organization apart from others, speaks to who you are, and tells your story. It involves researching yourself, your organization, your competitors, your partners, etc. and asking, at times, some difficult questions.

A small team of board members was assembled to begin the logo design process. We began with soliciting design proposals and quotations from professional design firms. In the end, we selected 5937 Design, a firm based in Philadelphia, PA. Our next step was to answer the tough questions of, “What story would your logo tell if it could speak?” or “What colors/shapes” should be included or avoided in your logo?” While some of these questions could be easily answered from our recent work on the mission and vision statements, others required some serious conversation, discussion, and mental energy. Having led that team, it was very interesting to see how quickly we were able to come to a consensus, including colors, shapes, symbols to avoid, etc. It was exciting!

We really wanted to preserve the rich history of ASCUE. Founded in 1968, ASCUE has been one of the longest running educational technology conferences in North America. From these questions we saw three recurring words in our discussions: collaboration, innovation, and creativity. These three words, I believe, are the pillars upon which ASCUE was founded and have sustained the organization for over 45 years. We have incorporated these words into a tagline - a three word synopsis of our mission statement. Collaboration. Innovation. Creativity.

John, from 5937, took our compiled answers and returned with several design concepts. Each concept included a rationale, description, and examples of how that logo concept could be implemented on stationary, apparel, a mobile app, and even an ASCUEmobile! With each round we asked the following questions, “What do you like? What don’t you like? Rank your top three concepts.” It’s worth noting that at each round, each concept was strong, memorable and, in various forms, embodied the essence of ASCUE. After several rounds we narrowed the concepts down to three.

Interested in how these concepts might “fly,” we took a popular vote from the membership. It was a close tie for two of the three concepts. These results were shared with the full ASCUE Board of Directors who then decided on the final logo by a majority vote.

I have to say that I’m extremely pleased with the final product. All through the process I had difficulty selecting a favorite because each concept was strong, memorable, and likeable.

The new ASCUE logo is composed of both a symbol and a wordmark. The symbol is a stylized digital letter “A” (called “the digital a”), suggesting collaboration, connection, and community. The smaller triangles come together to form a greater "whole" - that is, ASCUE. With each of the 11 triangles being a different color, the logo embodies the idea that each of our members has a unique story and brings their individual experience, skills, and creativity to better the ASCUE community.

While the number 11 has no real significance to ASCUE, one of the greatest innovations in science and technology was the Apollo 11 spacecraft. As an organization, by way of collaboration, innovation and creativity, we hope that each of our members will also be leaders in technology, specifically in higher education.

The wordmark is set to the right in typeface Avenir Roman. The type is uppercase. The word Avenir, itself, means “future” in French - suggesting that ASCUE is a future-oriented, innovative organization.

I believe that this new brand identity is the start of an exciting new chapter in the history of ASCUE. We’re on the cusp of a new generation of innovators, collaborating together to design and develop new ways to creatively integrate technology in the classroom. I’m excited and honored to be a part of such an organization. Join us!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

SMART LightRaise 60wi Interactive Projector Review by Tom Marcais

SMART just came out with a product in April that could revolutionize interactive white board technology. Up until this point, there were really just two kinds of interactive whiteboard technologies. The traditional interactive white board, where you press a finger or pen against an electronic board that registers your movements. And, the newer interactive projectors... that use proprietary pens that allow you to write on any surface (but without the pens, the interactivity doesn't work). Well... SMART came out with a product that combines the best of both worlds... the SMART LightRaise 60wi projector.

Lee Hartman, Inc. very generously loaned us one of these projectors for a week. It was pretty amazing! It will project on any flat surface (wall, white board, etc...). Once it's installed and calibrated, it operates just like a regular SMART board! You can touch the projection with your finger, and it's a big touch-screen! Or, use your finger to select any of the various SMART board tools through the tool bar. If you prefer pens... they have two rechargeable pens you can work with too.

There are a few downsides we ran into. They tell you that you need a flat surface to install this on, and they're not kidding. We thought we had a flat wall, but it really had some high/low points. Our Physical Plant guys came to the rescue and smoothed it out with some wall compound. We were then able to get a good enough reading to make the finger-touch capability work. Also, because it's using lasers to create a raised plane above the surface... you can't have any bezel greater than 5mm. Not a big deal with most white boards, but it probably does mean no map rails over that section of the board. It does take a bit of time to install, too. There's a bit of extensive calibration. SMART recommends allotting 2-hours for two people to install and calibrate one projector. The final thing we noticed is that you couldn't use all of the multi-touch features (like a fist for an eraser).

There are some huge advantages, though! First of all... size. This thing can project wide-screen up to 100 inches diagonally. That's a pretty big picture! Next, it has dual-touch capabilities... so you can have two people working with the projection at the same time. Another advantage is you only have one piece of equipment (one warranty, one point-of-failure) versus one for a SMART Board and another for a projector. If you've got this set up to project on a regular white board, it's also great for faculty that don't want to use SMART technology. They can just use it as a regular projector and/or just write normally on the white board with dry erase markers. Oh... and finally... the best has got to be price. You can get this projector for under $2000.00! Compared to installing an 800-series SMART board and a separate short-throw projector, we figure this will save us about $2000.00 per installation!

We're hoping to use this is some of the classroom renovations we're doing here at Sweet Briar College this summer. If you get a chance to check one of these projectors out in person, I'd really recommend it!

Friday, May 3, 2013

A New Endeavor

Have you ever sat back from your computer, looked at your "To Do" list, and thought, "I'm gonna start ______"? Fill in the ________ with your own project, a new skill, new diet, new sense of determination to do less of something.

At ASCUE we've decided to (finally) start a blog. While we're still working on the details of what we'll post about, or even who from our organization might do the posting, here's what we can guarantee: it will be about technology. It will help accomplish our mission "to provide opportunities for resource-sharing, networking, and collaboration within an environment that fosters creativity and innovation in the use of technology within higher education."

We've called this the "Innovators' Blog" with the hope that you, a co-innovator, will be inspired to innovate new, creative ways to integrate technology in your institutions. We may even ask you to guest blog for us!

Stay tuned for more details and keep innovating!