Meet the Yale Alumni Association.
After four decades as the Association of Yale Alumni, the organization by and for Yale alumni has changed its name as part of a comprehensive rebranding that includes a new visual identity, a refined mission statement, and a new website to better engage its 170,000-plus constituents.
“We’ve changed our name and our look, but, importantly, we retain the very core of what we do,” said Nancy Stratford ’77, chair of the Yale Alumni Association Board of Governors. “And that is to provide opportunities for alumni to engage with each other and with Yale in ways that we hope will be both meaningful and impactful.”
The rebranding has been years in the making. It was prompted by a desire to create greater consistency in terms of name and presence, to update an aging digital infrastructure, and to promote transparency regarding what the alumni association is and how it functions.
“A number of alumni have arrived at our offices asking how to join the Association of Yale Alumni. They seem surprised when I say, ‘You’re already in! All Yale alumni are,’” said YAA Executive Director Weili Cheng ’77, a former board chair who assumed the lead role at the alumni association in 2016. “There had been conversation of changing our name previously, but these visits from alumni really crystallized my thinking that we needed to explore a complete and total rebranding to better tell the Yale alumni story and our role in it.”
That work started with the name and visual identity. Prior to the rebranding, the alumni association’s name appeared differently in different places – as both Association of Yale Alumni and Yale Alumni Association.
Four years ago, members of the YAA’s board of governors with expertise in branding recommended aligning behind one identity, proposing Yale Alumni Association as a way to place the university and the shared experience of alumni front and center.
“Yale alumni have always been at the heart of the association’s work, which made AYA to YAA a natural transition,” said former board member Linda Schupack, president of marketing, entertainment networks, at AMC Networks, and one of the originators of the rebranding efforts. “Plus, we were missing out on an opportunity to contribute to and benefit from the strength of the Yale University brand, which is one of the most iconic in higher education and one of the most recognizable in the world. The YAA is so much the stronger for leading with Yale.”
The new visual identity began with a new wordmark, “Yale Alumni,” to marry that sense of cohesiveness and purpose. It was soon paired with a new logo, executed by Miko McGinty ’93, ’98 MFA, to form the look and feel for the renamed alumni association.
“We wanted the Yale Alumni Association visual identity to relate to the Yale identity as a whole,” said McGinty. “We’re all products of Yale, and for the first time, our wordmark is now part of Yale. It was so important to us to bring that aspect into play, and to do so in a way that felt natural and elegant and that set the stage for the future of the Yale Alumni Association.”
The decision-making surrounding the name change, visual identity, and the other components of the rebranding was validated by the 2017 all-alumni survey, which asked alumni to weigh in on a wide variety of topics, including the efficacy of the current brand.
“What emerged from the all-alumni survey,” said Cheng, “is that we needed a more relatable, easily identifiable, and definable brand, one that clearly communicates who we are and what we do. It took some time to work on all the rebranding elements, but we feel really good about the end result.”
The last two elements were completed this year: refining the YAA’s mission statement for clarity and intent and overhauling its website to make it more intuitive, accessible, and user-friendly.
“The alumni association had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish: a mission statement, visual brand, and website that are true to what the alumni association is, while remaining aspirational,” said Joan O’Neill, the university’s vice president for alumni affairs and development. “I am delighted with the result and believe our alumni will be as well.”
The new website maintains key facets of the old site – navigation items such as Connect, Learn, and Volunteer – while adding a single page to search all groups; a robust, sortable events calendar; and a news feed that captures alumni-related stories from across the university. It also features bolder, brighter imagery and cleaner, more concise language to make it easier for alumni to find what they need and to navigate where they need to go. Not impacted are the current YaleMail alumni email addresses, which will remain @aya.yale.edu.
Best of all, the website is a growing, developing project, with functionality and enhancements that will be unveiled in the months ahead.
“Rebranding and updating the mission and vision of the Yale Alumni Association has involved a great investment of effort by staff and many dedicated alumni, who have spent time brainstorming, benchmarking, writing, and designing – all to establish and coordinate the necessary messages and technical elements needed for the new website to function, and to function well,” said Stratford.
“The result of that hard work? The rebranding and the new website efforts achieve the goal we set: to reintroduce ourselves with the relevance and resonance our alumni told us they seek. We are your Yale Alumni Association.”