Cal Poly Humboldt

A brand’s future is
found in the heart
of California’s
North Coast

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As the winter of COVID receded, new growth began to emerge in California. Humboldt State University, a regional institution in a remote, lush corner of the state's North Coast, was faced with an unprecedented opportunity: the chance to become California's third polytechnic institution. Humboldt's leadership partnered with SimpsonScarborough to grow the roots of their university into a brand redefined in name, voice, and look — and show that Humboldt is a Cal Poly like no other.

The Challenge

The Opportunity

It’s not every day that your university is designated a polytechnic.

Backed by a — literally — historic state investment, the newly-christened Cal Poly Humboldt was faced with a duality of challenges: on one hand, to continue doing the world-shaping work that earned them their polytechnic designation in the first place, and on the other, to tell a newer and more true kind of story: about the future, about the North Coast, and about themselves.


The Solution

If strategy is the backbone of a brand, creative is its flesh and blood.

Capturing the experience of Humboldt within an unmistakable visual and verbal language was essential for the university to truly own its new role in the Cal State system. The result was an immersive, sensorily-vibrant experience punctuated by poetic language that echoes the beauty of the landscape and illustrated with warm colors, dynamic lifestyle photography, and hand-drawn marks and textures reflecting the diversity of Humboldt’s community. To be part of Humboldt, whether a student, faculty, or community member, is to embrace a spirit of finding — finding yourself, and the future that suits you.

Brand Promise
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Scope of work

Scope of Work

Scope 0

 A PR announcement for Humboldt’s new designation led into extensive research and strategic discovery, ultimately shaping an all-new brand promise and platform.

Scope 1

Becoming a polytechnic is a powerful thing. To ensure Humboldt’s brand strategy reflected both its dedication at home and ambition across the globe, SimpsonScarborough and Cal Poly Humboldt stakeholders conducted creative workshops and discovery sessions — an essential step towards bringing Humboldt’s new strategic identity to verbal and visual life.

Scope 2

These efforts culminated in an all-new creative concept and brand guidelines, a media campaign and landing page, videos, campus environmental, and brand trainings that empowered Humboldt’s faculty and staff to become brand ambassadors.

The Results

After almost a year of creative and strategic work, Humboldt launched a new brand that transformed the polytechnic experience visually and verbally.

With a multi-year plan to expand programs, a new brand identity, and a complete website redesign slated to launch in Spring 2023, California's northernmost polytechnic has a future brighter than ever

  1. Humboldt saw a 52.8% increase in undergraduate enrollment — plus a 6% increase in transfer enrollment and a 3.% increase in graduate enrollment.
  2. Applications rose 86% in first-year undergraduate applications.
  3. Among transfers and graduate applicants, applications rose 74%.

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