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how a health care network built an identity

{ BY JONATHAN YOUNG } More than 100 years ago, Sister Mary Michael Cummings founded what would become Mercy Hospital. Three decades later, Ellen Browning Scripps founded Scripps Hospital. Together, the two women started a journey that would make strides in San Diego's medical world. When the two companies joined forces in 1995, the partners started down a new path.

With Scripps expansions, new logos were being added. The main company had one design. Their five hospitals used two additional symbols. And with Mercy Hospital joining the group, there was a fourth distinct logo. One organization: many images.

Scripps, as the new organization is titled, had to establish what paths to pursue to help them stand out in the marketplace. It wasn't difficult to see, however, that they had an identity crisis.

"The organization had long been frustrated by having multiple logos. There was no uniformity," says Deborah Routt, Vice President of Communication and Marketing. Additionally, many people could see nothing to indicate that Mercy Hospital was now part of Scripps.

Scripps pursued a logo change many years ago, but put it on hold to focus on other pressing issues. "When dialogue was resumed in 1997, we realized that we really needed to do a comprehensive branding project, not just deal with the logo issue."

creating a brand

The company's new image encompasses more than just a logo. They were addressing their entire "brand" image, the complete bundle of thoughts an individual has about Scripps and the services it delivers -- both physical and emotional.

"Branding is the essence of who we are," Deborah says.

Scripps was dealing with serious health care and organizational issues: keeping up with the changing technology, evolving medical practices and the growth of the area. The branding project addresses all these concerns. Scripps is dedicating $250 million across five years to upgrade and streamline their technology -- including everything from medical equipment to records systems, and an advanced fiber-optic information highway so the multiple hospitals can communicate easily. Study groups are reviewing medical techniques at each facility, to streamline their health practices. A countywide network of doctors, called Scripps Physicians, addresses the population growth.

"No matter where someone is in the system, they contribute in some way to that unique experience we have promised to the patient," Deborah says. "That's why it is so important to have empowered employees who can act positively and do the things necessary to maintain the consistent image we wish to project."

In fact, during the design change, customer service was mentioned more than the new logo. "It's the sum of all the accumulated experiences that a customer has with the health care provider."

The branding project is considered Scripps' "strategic transformation," an overall plan to prepare Scripps to do business in the future of health care.

the preliminary work

Before anyone started drawing logo ideas, Scripps Communication and Marketing Department immersed itself in researching its audience. A branding committee -- with representation from physicians, employees, senior management and the Scripps board -- identified their audience, key messages to communicate to these audiences, brand attributes and a positioning statement.

"We can't go out and ask our thousands of employees what they think," explains Deborah, but, she says, they were still key contributors to the work. "The project has been a combination of both internal and external feedback in developing the promises we make to patients."

The program was not created in a vacuum. "The elements have been based on external market research to capture the viewpoint of consumers and what is important to them," says Deborah. "And internally, on what is important to us as a health care provider."

With the research in hand, Scripps started its search for an identity consultant.

the design process

Scripps chose Lippincott & Margulies, an internationally-known branding consultant, to create a new image that would communicate and symbolize the positioning statement and brand attributes. Jerry Kuyper, a partner in the consulting company, served as the design director for the Lippincott & Margulies team.

"We're very proud of this project," Jerry says. "I always love showing Scripps to potential clients."

The design team worked with six image attributes: collaboration, renowned excellence, visionary, trusted neighbor, change agent and community partner. These six characteristics were posted in their work area as inspiration to guide the identity development.

Jerry says that his firm uses general criteria to create and evaluate logos. "We strongly believe that a logo has to be strong, unique, memorable, flexible and enduring."

With an established vision, the team got started on preliminary ideas. They presented eight initial designs, each with varied looks and appeal. "Some were conservative, expressing heritage and excellence. Others were humanistic and spirited. The range of ideas stimulate an interesting discussion."

Scripps chose the design that evolved into what is being used today because it matched their needs the best. "Health care organizations are traditionally conservative," Deborah said. "But health care is changing and we want a logo that shows we're changing along with it."

Once the design was selected, L&M started refining the logo.

The Symbol -- The three people represent the collaboration and partnership between patient, physician and hospital. It conveys a sense of unity, support, caring and community.

Jerry remembers the challenges of this design and shares how the figures experienced several alterations. He explains that when people become more realistic, issues arise. Is the figure male or female? How old are they? What race? The simplicity of the final Scripps symbol solves that design dilemma. "We wanted people to look at this and see themselves."

L&M also believes that the designs must be easily understood, and not too abstract. Jerry says one should easily be able to describe in words what a logo represents. "A lot of logos appeal to designers, but can they appeal to the public?"

The Logotype -- The "Scripps" is in Times New Roman, and Scripps uses the Times New Roman and Univers type families in its collateral material. Both have a wide range of variations that provide a rich typographic palette.

"Our thinking is very simple," Jerry says. "We selected a classic typeface that is timeless, not trendy." Times New Roman lends itself well to a very contemporary design.

Two versions of the logo exist, with the logotype on the right of the image (the preferred version) and another with the logotype underneath. This provides flexibility in the way the logo is used.

The Colors -- Two-color logos are almost a standard. With today's technology and printing, however, companies are discovering three colors are not much more expensive and are a strong means for differentiation. That's why Scripps is using the blue, green and orange combination. The goal was to use three tones that are quite different, and Scripps likes the vibrant colors. Although colors cannot be "owned," Jerry says, "this color combination belongs to Scripps." Everyone even refers to the colors as "Scripps blue," "Scripps green" and "Scripps orange."

Blue still serves as the primary color, "but it's a subtle, distinct blue," Jerry says.

Imagery -- Although not part of the logo itself, L&M also presented many photographic suggestions. "We recommended engaging photographs of people," Jerry says. "It provides a more humanistic face to the company."

functionality

Along with the aesthetic appeal, the design met certain functional criteria. L&M uses these guidelines with all their logo designs, including Scripps.

A logo needs to work both large and small. Jerry says that 90 percent of logo applications are used between 1 and 2 inches wide, such as on a business card and brochure. Even if the logo is used on billboards or large signs, it appears smaller when seen from a distance.

A logo must also work in color and black and white. L&M creates all their initial designs in black and white. Color is added later to enhance the design. Scripps has a simple color guideline which shows how to use the logo on various color backgrounds, in two-color treatments and different black and gray options.

Almost hand-in-hand with color, the Scripps logo works well in positive and negative treatments. There are even standards on how to treat the logo on different color backgrounds.

Other unique considerations include three-dimensional versions, animated applications and versatility in electronic environments. L&M also considers what the most prominent applications would include; for Scripps, the hospital signs and printed publications were the most critical applications.

Identity Guidelines -- Scripps is a large company and there are countless employees and outside sources that will be using the new identity. To guarantee the look is used consistently throughout the organization, L&M prepared a comprehensive "Scripps Identity Guidelines" book.

The book includes everything from stationery to signage, and has sections on color use, photograph suggestions, collateral material templates and original art. The guide even addresses incorrect uses.

"We came back to Scripps with appropriate flexibility for what they want in their identity system," Jerry says. The book gives enough direction so that someone who does not have a graphics background can create basic Scripps material, yet it's flexible enough not to hinder a professional designer's creativity.

Jerry says it is ineffective to create standards that are too rigid. "Then everything looks alike," he explains. "The other extreme is that everything changes, and that's just chaos."

initiation

Before the new image was introduced to the public, Scripps needed to inform their enormous staff. In their February 1998 company newsletter, InsideScripps, employees were introduced to the new Branding Project and given a hint of a new look to come. The next issue debuted the logo, complete with the newly redesigned newsletter to match. "Scripps is proud and excited to unveil its new logo and brand identity first to employees, and then to the community," the newsletter starts.

Announcing the logo to the public was no small gig, either. Each hospital hosted enormous unveiling parties, inviting local residents to not only see the logo, but to view their changes in health care, too.

Changing the logo for a company the size of Scripps is not an overnight job. "This is a journey," Deborah says. "Since we are a non-profit organization, we have made a commitment to use the old materials and incorporate the new ones when we deplete our stock."

Immediate changes were seen in signage, stationery and name badges -- and the journey continues.

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