King Henry VIII launched the brand 477 years ago. Now it’s our turn.
Well, actually, Cardinal Wolsey launched the brand 498 years ago. In 1525 he established Cardinal’s College — sadly he never finished it as he fell from power in 1529 and Henry VIII restarted it in 1546…
Christ Church Oxford is one of the largest, most established and well known colleges in the world — the University of Oxford college is also, uniquely, the home to Oxford’s cathedral.
Set up in its current form in 1546 by King Henry VIII — almost 500 years ago — the college is at the cutting edge of academic research and teaching worldwide.
WELCOME TO CHRIST CHURCH
The college while historic, is enormously progressive and as part of its commitment to excellence in all that it does, Christ Church turned to SomeOne to look at developing its visual branding — to make it more cohesive, more single minded and more able to cope with the demands of digital application.
The first step was to establish a new version of its heraldic crest.
The college site contains a number of architecturally significant buildings including Tom Tower (designed by Sir Christopher Wren), Tom Quad (the largest quadrangle in Oxford), and the Great Dining Hall, which was the seat of the parliament assembled by King Charles I during the English Civil War.
The buildings have inspired replicas throughout the world in addition to being featured in films such as Harry Potter and The Golden Compass, helping Christ Church become the most popular Oxford college for tourists with almost half a million visitors annually.
The heraldic crest is depicted in many different ways in the architecture — and continues to be proudly used by students as they draw on the walls in chalk recording their latest sporting achievements
REVEALED THROUGH RESEARCH
During our site visit we met the college archivist Judith Curthoys we uncovered a rarely seen example of the heraldic crest. A one-of-a-kind, hand drawn and painted interpretation in the opening pages of a rare book took centre stage as the basis of our new design.
Heraldry is a series of symbols combined in unique ways to embody values, history, location and ownership. This highly codified visual language has become increasingly opaque to modern audiences — and while many would recommend a move towards simpler symbols and systems, such is the importance of history at Christ Church, the decision was made to double down on the heraldic centrepiece of the visual identity.
The core of the crest consists of Sable, on a cross engrailed argent, a lion passant gules, between four leopards’ faces azure, on a chief or, a rose gules barbed and seeded proper, between two Cornish choughs sable, beaked and membered gules. (we told you it was complex!)
You might notice that there is a very prominent red hat on the top of the crest. This is the iconic Cardinal’s hat, a recognised moniker of Thomas Wolsey, which adorns the House’s coat of arms and sets it apart from other heraldic crests signalling the Ecclesiastical connections.
Working with Anthony Millard we were able to refine each element of the Christ Church crest. Starting with the most iconic visual asset, The Wolsey Hat and Tassels, we established clarity and balance to the new crest. After which we were then able to address each individual motif, the decorative filigree and even refining the shape of shield.
A rigorous research period took us far and wide to better understand how the heraldic crest was depicted. Contrary to popular belief, there are many ways to draw the same crest, and while some parts are fixed, many are open to artistic interpretation. This can still be seen in and around the college, with modern day students still drawing their own interpretations of the Cardinal’s hat (in chalk) on the walls of the college — announcing the latest boat race results.
It was while visiting the college archives that we found a hand painted depiction of the college crest. Rarely seen in public, this artwork was a great balance of clarity, flair and economic use of space — and it forms the basis for the new formal crest at all sizes.
Due to the inherent complexity of the crest we took the route of developing not just one but three sizes in both full colour, black on white and white on black. A special version was also needed for the boat club — also in three sizes, full colour, black, and reversed out in white.
The large scale heraldic crest is unsurprisingly for large scale applications — such as the front of reports, large scale signage and communications. Medium scale is for the majority of day in, day out applications — where as the small scale cuts are only for very small deployment or where definition is limited such as rubber stamps or small digital screens such as mobile phones.
One of the most fascinating parts of the project was visiting the college archives. It was here we uncovered a hidden gem (a beautiful hand-painted illustration of the crest), and our source of inspiration.
Applying our own ideas and sensitivities we developed a stunning new crest with a refreshed clarity and care. This deeply considered and highly crafted update no longer needs to hide away in a rare old book— it can proudly represent Christ Church across multiple touchpoints and appeal to new audiences.
DESIGN DIRECTOR, SOMEONE.
The creatures featured on the heraldic crest hold significance — but to modern day audiences, they are often missed, ignored or misunderstood. We chose to invest extra time and effort in the redrawing of each element, so that they can be used on their own, or together, to help connect primary branded surfaces in and around the college.
There’s no denying the historic draw of Christ Church — but this is no theme park — it is very much a college focused on teaching today for tomorrow. The new brand work, while historically authentic, takes the view that a more unified, digitally adept, agile and flexible approach will see the college stay ahead of the curve. A surprisingly refreshing and progressive view in the sector.
SIMON MANCHIPPFOUNDER, SOMEOONE
Optimising a branding scheme for today and tomorrow.
Scale variations were created to bring a traditional crest into the demands of today. Recognising a number of different touchpoint the College now operations in we created crests that can adapt to smaller constraints.
The future is always hard to predict but by creating three versions of each crest colour way gives Christ Church the best chance to be able to keep up with what the future may ask of the brand.
With a far wider suite of visual cues to choose from, the new branding system enables branded surfaces to connect without the sole repetition of the crest.
With all elements of the crest reconsidered and redrawn in high definition, we developed a series of patterns and watermarks that can be used to brand items in a more decorative but equally powerful way. This simple brand asset amplifies the craftsmanship of the crest whilst also capitalising on the recognisable Christ Church visual assets.
The college’s alumni include 13 British prime ministers out of the 30 educated at Oxford (the highest number of any college at Oxford or Cambridge), as well as former prime ministers of Pakistan and Ceylon.
Other notable alumni include King Edward VII, King William II of the Netherlands, the founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, seventeen archbishops, writers Lewis Carroll (author of Alice in Wonderland) and W. H. Auden, philosopher John Locke, and scientist Robert Hooke. Albert Einstein was also associated with the college.
The college even has several cities and places named after it.
PAIRING THE CREST WITH A CONTEMPORARY TYPEFACE ROOTED IN HISTORY
A new sans serif typeface designed to perform impeccably at any scale, from monumental to minuscule, replaces the previously used Garamond. Rework is a high legibility font that carries accumulated influences of multiple eras and processes — 19th century architectural lettering, copperplate engraving and 20th century phototypesetting. It even references William Caslon IV’s Two Lines English Egyptian, the very first printed sans.
It is a stark contrast to the high levels of detail found in the crest. The typeface aesthetic is clear, timeless and unashamedly contemporary — reflecting the other side of the college working on cutting edge thinking.
A TRADITIONAL BRAND WITH A CONTEMPORARY EDGE
No longer is there one restrictive lockup for all brand touchpoints. Christ Church now has flexibility when introducing the crest and logo lockup to their design communications. From letterheads to digital apps, the brand can adapt. Within a formal setting the traditional full colour crest can be used, yet a student open day can introduce the white crest and newly optimised colour palette — creating a contemporary and unpredictable feel to the brand rollout.
This was a terrific meeting of minds, from the academia of Christ Church to the artful interpretations of our team.
The project involved looking at all parts of the college and the site, including the cathedral and the world famous boat club which carries it’s own unique version of the crest with the addition of two oars.
The full detail crest takes direct inspiration from the boat club wall of fame (oars and pictures), and chalk drawings found on the College walls. In addition there is a more simplified shield iteration, which is well loved by the boat club and has adorned clothing on many a race day.
All new work has been developed with digital in mind. From crest variations fit for any scale, to animated motifs and watermarks, to video end frames, to an optimised colour palette — Allowing the brand to step into a bold new chapter.
We wanted to update a 500 year old institution for the digital age while preserving everything about our visual identity that was so important for our students, staff and alumni. SomeOne’s highly sensitive approach builds on the strength of our heritage while giving us enormous flexibility to present a modern, digital-first identity. We are convinced that this highly creative work puts us in great stead for the next 500 years!
HEAD OF COMMUNICATIONS
SomeOne Team Simon Manchipp, Founder Andy Goode, Design Director Ben Field, Account Director Anthony Millard, Illustrator