March 2017

If you went on the Internet at some point last month to do a little research on Nashville’s premier art college, you might have come away a bit confused. An initial search revealed that the city’s top art school was called Watkins College of Art, Design & Film. Yet when you clicked into the school’s website, you found the institution referred to variously as Watkins College and even just plain old Watkins.

This lack of a consistent brand was one of the first things Dr. Joseph (“J.”) Kline noticed when he took over the helm at Watkins as president in the summer of 2015. “I was a complete outsider when I arrived at Watkins, and I saw immediately that there was a real inconsistency in our brand,” says Kline. “In a market as competitive as higher education, you need to have a consistent brand in order to have a consistent message.”

So starting in February, the school began a soft rollout of a new brand. Henceforth, the institution formerly known by the somewhat cumbersome designation Watkins College of Art, Design & Film will simply be known as Watkins.

Interestingly, the new, streamlined moniker is rooted in the school’s distant past. When Kline and his colleagues decided to pursue the rebranding, they hired a top Nashville advertising agency called GS&F to do the job. The agency did some digging in the history books and found a photo of the school’s original building, which was in downtown Nashville. Etched in large capital letters over one of the entrances was the name WATKINS.

“A lot of people don’t know that our school has been around since 1885,” says Kline. “It was important to us that our rebranding maintain a link to our past. Our new brand recognizes the institution’s long connection and commitment to arts education in Nashville.”

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