Onward We Learn - Strategy, Naming, and Brand Identity Design

Individually We Thrive, Together We Soar

New Identity, Same Mission. Introducing: Onward We Learn


School is hard. Heavy work-loads, family responsibilities, and social relationships can take their toll.  And that’s before adding on the emotional rollercoaster of planning for the path to postsecondary success. Students without college graduates in their family to advise them have an even more challenging experience. That’s why The College Crusade of Rhode Island has been guiding students and their families along the path to college for 30 years.

But the word “crusade” holds a different meaning today than when the organization was first established – it has baggage and comes with offensive undertones. The organization recognized it was time for a change.


Nail was brought in to develop a new name, identity, and brand manifesto.



The College Crusade is a wide organization with many stakeholders. They have helped thousands of graduates, currently serve thousands of students each year, have countless community partners and advocates, and an extremely hardworking and dedicated staff.

We talked to all of these groups and learned the following:

Students can start changing the world in middle school. A college education puts students on such a profound life trajectory that they reshape the economic and social conditions of their environment. So when students join the College Crusade, they not only begin to change themselves but also their community.


Self doubt can kill dreams.  But you have to have the dream first. In order to have the confidence to see themselves going to college and pursuing professional career tracks, students need to see the world outside their neighborhood, see people like themselves being successful, and see themselves as part of the larger world.


There is more to academic success than what happens in school. Emotional needs and personal well-being plays a huge role in success and requires just as much support as academics.  The staff and fellow students who provide that support wind up feeling like family.


The College Crusade creates a virtuous circle. Alumni continue to feel the pride of being a graduate of the program and pay it forward through donations, volunteer work, and even joining the staff.  As this network grows and creates more role models for students to see and find support, it makes the steps of the next generation easier.



We needed to develop a name that captured the forward-moving energy of the original, while still explaining the organization’s purpose. It also needed to position the organization for a future that looks different than when the organization first began.


Education is evolving rapidly and today’s pathway to college may look very different in 10 to 20 years time. So we needed a name that could embrace post secondary education without evoking explicit traditions and ideas that are changing.


That name was Onward We Learn.

No alt text provided for this image


We played off the Onward WLearn acronym, OWL, to help build an identity system that conveyed the spirit of education, independence, and wisdom. The visual language is inspired by taking flight and forward momentum.


The Logo. The logo was designed to evoke an onward journey. It’s built out of unique shapes that come together to form a wing in flight and is anchored onto the “O” in Onward We Learn.


The Colors. We wanted to have a large range of colors to capture the energy and diversity of higher ed, which felt celebratory. We also needed the colors to have a certain level of sophistication – vibrant with a traditional edge.


The Typography. The logo typeface is a contemporary serif font called “Noe” drawn with sharper edges that reflect the shapes that make-up the logo. Similar to the color scheme, we wanted something fresh and modern with an air of sophistication.






No alt text provided for this image

No alt text provided for this image



Visit onwardwelearn.org to learn more.