Research / Design
Old Town School of Folk Music Brand Development
“The Old Town School of Folk Music
teaches and celebrates music and
cultural expressions rooted in the
traditions of diverse American and
The Old Town School brand is friendly, accessible, and fosters a sense of equality and togetherness. They focus on peer-to-peer learning, group improvisation, and frequent community events that bring people of all walks of life together to celebrate music and movement. The foundation of the organization lay in the philosophies of the folk movement which is inherently political, with specific emphasis on unity and fairness for all. Most of the founding members of The Old Town School were political activists and the school is adamant about keeping with this activist legacy. This proposed redesign for Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music identifies the school as a community of unique individuals, as opposed to just a music school. It is a dynamic identity made up of a container mark with an everchanging letter ‘F’, for folk, which alludes to the philosophies of the Folk Movement: activism, community, and equality.
I settled on a frame loosely based on the musical staff, with room to highlight the ‘F’, and balance the elements, rather than allowing either to take precedence over the other. The frame acts as a metaphor for the school, which hones and makes shine the ‘F’ that is Folk Music. That being said, I designed around 70 different ‘F’s that suit the brand, and allow for playfulness and highlight individuality.
The mark, in action, takes on color based on which department of the school is being represented.For example, in the instructor and faculty business cards, each instructor can choose their favorite ‘F’, and then their card will show that ‘F’ in the colors of their department (guitar, ensemble, wiggleworms, or dance+movement). All administrative staff has a pattern of ‘F’s on their stationery, printed in black on recycled paper, in keeping with the political nature of the brand.
The container is also used in promotional material to showcase performances and shows put on by the school. The notion of creating show posters that would act as an actual aesthetic keepsake, as opposed to simple marketing material, important to the legacy of the brand. These items could very well become a collectors set.
Finally, an updated and simplified website was necessary, as their current site is not particularly well-organized or accessible. This update includes the proposed branding, but also simplifies the site by nesting information under the specific branches of the school, so the user is only searching information that is specific to their desired courses.
View the full research document here.
View the full design process here.