Design Makeover: S Virginia Higher Ed Center

A Smarter Logo


Southern Virginia Higher Education Center



The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center’s logo is based on an abstract representation of the building itself, which stands on a hill overlooking a river.

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center calls itself an “educational connector,” in the words of Communications Manager Hope Harris-Gayles. It’s not a “school” per se, in that it doesn’t confer degrees itself. But it provides the support and infrastructure that enables instructors and students to come together. The courses students take can be applied to a degree they’re earning from a degree-granting college—in fact, says Harris-Gayles, students can take all the courses they need for a degree at the SVHEC.

The Center’s students run the gamut from illiterate students who come in for one-on-one literacy tutoring to GED (high school equivalency) students to people working on Associate, Bachelor, and even advanced graduate degrees.

The SVHEC is housed in a former tobacco warehouse (tobacco used to be a big part of the economy in that part of Virginia). “We’re educating folks for future economic development,” says Harris-Gayles, so it’s appropriate to do so in a renovated reminder of a past economy.

The current logo appears on the Center’s website and on all their print materials, including business cards and newspaper ads (which means it sometimes appears in black and white). It’s based on an abstract representation of the building itself, which stands on a hill overlooking a river. In full color, the building is gold, the river and the top of the tower are burgundy, and the hill is green with the Center’s name reversed out.

The colors are actually a bit of a problem: the three spot colors can make new printed materials expensive. And having the name reversed out means that when the logo is printed small, the words can get very hard to read. The SVHEC is a progressive, innovative institution based on a cutting-edge educational model, so we asked three designers to give the institution a smarter logo that could work in both color and black and white.



The dynamic perspective emphasizes the building’s tower, which I feel defines the building and is the most recognizable feature.

DESIGNER: Anthony Louis Kelly

The SVHEC’s current logo has some good elements, but they’re undercut by poor execution. The result is an image that’s flat and uninspiring.

I like the fact that the current logo depicts the site of the building, which is a renovated tobacco factory on a hill overlooking the Dan River. I wanted to stay within this theme; that way, the new logo would be recognizable to people who are already familiar with the school and the building. For the same reason, I wanted to stick with a similar color palette, as I assume they’re already using green and gold on current school materials.

I placed the name off to the side of the image and set it in Adobe Garamond Pro, which I chose for its strong and clean appearance. I modified the serifs on a couple of the letters to create a more uniform look in the text—the “T” and the “A” in particular had angled serifs, which I straightened. The picture still depicts the school on a hill with the river below, but I changed the perspective to make the hill seem higher, which works as a play on the term “higher education” in the logo’s subline. The dynamic perspective also emphasizes the building’s tower, which I feel defines the building and is the most recognizable feature. I placed a slight gradient behind the building to depict the sky, and to represent the river at the bottom I used varied shades of the same green as on the hill.

I stuck with only two colors; this will help keep costs down when ordering printed materials and it also makes the logo look less busy. At the same time, the shading effects give the logo depth and character, which is especially important when it appears in only one color.

Anthony Louis Kelly

Anthony Louis Kelly is a graphic and Web designer born and raised in Rochester, New York. Although he’s only 25 years old, he has been working as a graphic designer for many years: Anthony received his first paid graphic design project as a junior in high school and has been at it ever since. He holds a Certificate in Commercial Art and an Associates Degree in Graphic Design.

Anthony currently works as an in-house designer for PrintAll Solutions (, a printing, promotional products, and apparel branding company in Rochester. He also works regularly as a freelance designer, taking on a variety of design projects from logos and identity to brochures, catalogs, and signage. Anthony has clients throughout the east coast ranging from top financial institutions to real estate and signage companies. Starting out as a traditional graphic designer, he finds himself recently taking on an increasing amount of Web design projects.

Adobe Illustrator CS4



I wanted to narrow the design down to a couple of key elements so that when you look at it, you instantly know it’s the SVHEC logo.

Brian Strong

The SVHEC logo isn’t bad—they had the right design ideas, but the execution fell a little short. I see three problems that keep it from being a strong graphic image: it has way too many elements battling for attention; squeezing all those elements into a letterhead-size graphic causes the logo to become weak and the text hard to read; and the cost of printing the logo in color can get pricey.

When I create a logo for a client, I always start my design process with the idea of it being used as a one-color image, so even if colors are added to the design it will still be a strong graphic element. Here, I wanted to narrow the design down to a couple of key elements so that when you look at it, you instantly know it’s the SVHEC logo.

So my main focus was the tobacco building, the river, and enlarging the school name. I started by transforming the tobacco building into a simple, yet solid graphic image and showcasing the smokestack and water tower, which are instantly recognizable.

The water was the next element. Instead of it being a separate graphic, I wanted to tie it with the building so it becomes one solid graphic. To keep the images from looking as if they were just free floating once printed, I wrapped the image in a box to contain all the elements. I placed the school name to the right, which let me run it much larger than previously. I set it in the free Larabie font Blue Highway.

The new logo works in black and white or in two colors, and if they wanted to use it as a poster, other elements can be added to the graphic without weakening it.

Brian Strong

Brian says he can’t really pinpoint the start of becoming an artist. Ever since he can remember, he’s enjoyed drawing. After numerous scribbles and doodles here and there, fast-forward to high school where Brian signed up for a graphic design course and fell in love with the art.

He enrolled in the Pittsburgh Technical Institute and got a degree in Graphic Arts. After graduation, he snagged a gig with a small graphic design and exhibits firm, which gave him the opportunity to travel and set up trade shows all over the country. After going back to school to study Web design, he started his own design studio with his good friend Eric Brown: Design Fu in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. Fast-forward again to the present, when he has recently opened a screen printing studio as well as a clothing company. Graphic design continues to be his passion: he says, “I love creating something for millions to see and enjoy.”

APPLICATION USED: Adobe Illustrator CS3



I wanted to communicate the idea of forward movement in my design, so I started thinking of ways to incorporate a “road to success.”

DESIGNER: Tyson Junkers
When it came to designing a logo for the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, I wanted something simple but powerful and symbolic of what the school represents to the students attending. I started out by reading through the website, and found a lot of information that helped get me started.

The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center likes to keep some of the old with the new. They’ve been that way since they started, and even today they hold classes in a renovated tobacco warehouse that they converted into a school. They retained some of the warehouse’s history through an old elevator, fire doors, and humidifiers. The school stands as an important symbol for its students, and I felt that quality should be retained in the new logo.

I wanted to communicate the idea of forward movement in my design, so I started thinking of ways to incorporate a “road to success” that takes current and future students on a journey to the school and beyond. I added a single sharp edge to continue the road into the unknown: the future of SVHEC’s students.

I chose to keep the colors simple, only using blue and white. Blue represents creativity and intelligence, both of which SVHEC has and offers to its students. I used white, as it represents purity and cleanliness, which are welcome attributes in any education center.

As for the type, I wanted something that looks professional while being inviting. I decided a thin, round font would work best, so I ended up using ITC Avant Garde Gothic. It fits the look of the logo and would work on everything from letterheads to T-shirts.

I feel my design gives the school a more modern look while retaining a connection with its history.

Tyson Junkers

“Design is every part of who I am,” says Tyson Junkers. “The way I dress, the way I act, the way I work, all have some kind of subconscious reasoning based on a design I’ve seen in my life.”

Tyson’s dream in life is simple: he wants to have fun and wake up in the morning happy to go to work. It’s what he does for fun that influences him to work harder. He says he loves working in design, especially 3D. He has spent countless nights lying in bed awake, his mind spinning with new ideas. He keeps a notepad by his bed for any ideas that come to him in the night; so far, he has filled several pads. He lives in Orlando, Florida, and is pursuing a degree in Digital Arts & Design at Full Sail University.

“My name is Tyson Junkers. I’m a designer with 25 years of influence behind me.”

APPLICATIONS USED: Adobe Illustrator CS4 and Adobe InDesign CS4