CASE STUDY, Princeton Theological Seminary
Reimagining a 200-year-old Institution
A 200-year-old institution looked to re-position itself to support their bold vision for the future, without ignoring its storied past.
Princeton Theological Seminary is known as one of the most respected institutions of higher learning in the country and abroad. However, much of this credit was due to the Seminary’s rich past.
How do we create a brand that builds on the historical significance of the Seminary, while casting a compelling vision for the future? How do we reposition the Seminary website, with hundreds of thousands of pages and no clear pathways, to a great user experience that meets Seminary objectives?
Founded in 1812, Princeton Theological Seminary is a bastion of theological training, critical thinking, and social engagement. The Seminary’s roster of alumni includes martyrs, activists, poets, writers, politicians, ministers, and theologians. This diverse collective of alumni has comforted the world in times of grief, given their lives to fight for the oppressed, broken barriers, led movements, and shaped Christian thought for generations.
While much has changed since the Seminary was founded, the outward-facing expression of the brand did not reflect the seminary's vision of the future.
Identifying A Central Theme
Our work started by interviewing students, alumni, and faculty to establish current perceptions of the Seminary’s brand as well as how they saw the new vision for the Seminary impacting the day-to-day operations. These interviews revealed a series of themes that led to insights we used to frame our work.
A central theme driving both students and retrospective alumni was the desire to imagine thier lives once they received their diploma. After the years of effort and hard work, how would their life be different? What about PTS would shape them? How would they be shaped?
This theme, coupled with the amazing history, gave us a vision for the brand.
Building on the Past - Looking to the Future
Since its founding in 1812 Princeton Seminary has shaped some of the greatest minds not only of the Christian faith, but of culture. So then, what does the future look like?
The future looks like faithful men and women living out a vision for their Christian faith grounded in rigorous Biblical interpretation. Their vision is intellectually serious, ecumenical, and inclusive. It advocates for racial and gender justice within its own walls and in the larger world, is unafraid to tackle societal problems of scale, and is marked by civility, tolerance, respect, and compassion.
PTS believes the world is once again hungry for this kind of Christian witness and leadership. These beliefs that respect the past and paint an imagination for the future were the cornerstone for the brand architecture.
FiveStone built a visual language that wove tension between the past and the future into the fabric of the entire identity system. We started by looking through the Seminary’s archives to review the history of seals and marks used throughout the years and deconstruct them for relevant motifs and symbols. From there we were able to modernize key aspects. This gave the new mark a contemporary look, while also appearing timeless.
On the digital front, our challenge was to take a website with tens of thousands of disparate pages and transform it into a mobile-responsive, streamlined presence. We began by determining and narrowing the website’s target audience. After creating user journeys, we mapped out an information architecture deliberately focused on the needs of potential students and donors.
Utilizing the design language we established in the branding process, we then built a website that is not only aesthetically and navigationally advanced across multiple devices, but is also designed to achieve business goals.
“We have a bold vision for the future of the Seminary, and a critical step was to reimagine the brand and narrative of such a storied institution. Our faculty, students, and alumni are all thrilled with the outcome and we are excited to continue our partnership with FiveStone in the next steps of our strategy.”
Dr. Shane Berg
Vice President for External Relations
Princeton Theological Seminary