cal poly hero

Cal Poly

In a little over a year, and
less than a week apart,
a brand was born, and a
capital campaign was

The Challenge

The Opportunity

Cal Poly had never undergone a comprehensive branding. As you might imagine, after 117 years of misuse and outright abuse, the brand had evolved out of control, preventing University Marketing from telling its story in consistent and compelling ways—and it had and has an incredible story to tell. Marketing was simply too busy trying to protect what little brand was left. It was a serious problem, one made even more so, as Marketing was also working on the launch of a major capital campaign and the grand opening of their first welcome center. All three projects would launch within a week of one another.

Logo reveal

The Solution

It started with research; it always does. Findings informed strategy recommendations, which led to an inspiring and unifying brand platform headlined by the brand promise:

Centered in California.
Central to California.

That then led to brand concepts, campus input, refinement, and testing, ultimately landing on Learn by Doing as Cal Poly’s greatest asset and Ready Day One as its best expression. Our process ensured buy-in throughout.

Quote image Quote image

In one week, we had our brand reveal and announced our campaign. That’s special. Quite frankly, we probably did two years’ worth of work in one. I’m very proud of what our two teams accomplished.”

Jeffrey D. Armstrong, President
cal poly viewbook
cal poly viewbook banner ads
Strategic plan booklet design
The Challenge

The Opportunity

While the institutional brand neared completion, we also provided naming, narrative writing, and strategy for The Power of Doing: The Campaign for Learn by Doing, as well as fresh designs that could stand on their own as a fundraising platform, while also complementing the new brand. Finally, we created a unique visitor experience, tailored to the new brand and in alignment with the uniqueness of the Welcome Center itself.

Brand quote
Brand assets
Desktop site
Scope of work

Scope of Work

Scope 0

Qualitative and quantitative testing with more than 3,300 respondents from prospects, faculty, staff, current students, alumni, board members, academic peers and more provided insights that were critical to informing our strategy, as well as in providing KPI’s to measure brand strength moving forward.

Scope 1

Our messaging strategy and narrative called for Cal Poly to take ownership of Learn by Doing as a founding principle and to use it to elevate awareness and reputation. By connecting Learn by Doing with the brand expression—Ready Day One—we transformed a mindset into a tangible, marketable skill and an earned expertise, both hallmarks of Cal Poly graduates.

Scope 2

Applied the brand across campus through print materials, environmental graphics, and both modular and interactive displays Additionally, we created a new website and mobile experience for the brand and the campaign, both updating and modernizing Cal Poly’s web presence.

The Results

The story, here, is more than a university going from never really having a brand to having one of the finest in higher ed. Neither is the story one of awards, although there were many, nor the fact that the capital campaign is the most successful capital campaign in CSU history. Mr. Maraviglia tells it best. Scroll down to read what he had to say about the Cal Poly and SimpsonScarborough partnership. It’s why we do what we do.


Raised by The Power of Doing campaign
The largest in CSU history
(Original goal: $700 million)

2020 CASE District VII Awards of Excellence

Gold (Marketing)
Visual Identity Systems
Cal Poly Brand

Gold (Special Events)

Special Events
Launching The Power of Doing: Highlighting Student Success & Donor Impact

Gold (Video)

General Information Videos or Best Video Feature (Short)
Ready Day One

Bronze (Digital Communications)

The Power of Doing
Campaign Website

Students on campus Students on campus

The research enabled buy-in from a cross section of the campus and served as a catalyst for people to look at the brand collectively. It also lifted marketing up, demonstrating the important strategic function it serves.”

James Maraviglia, Vice Provost for Enrollment Development & Chief Marketing Officer

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