Thoughts on change: Project Management Institute refresh brand

For an organisation that is all about delivering change, it is interesting to see the reaction to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI) total refresh of its brand.

The colours have moved away from corporate conservatism to hip and funky. The visuals have changed from the letters PMI to a collection of different shapes, each one with a different meaning that is very relevant to the world of Project Management.

The first symbol is obviously a P, for ‘project’.  Go far, so non-controversial.

The next symbol looks like two semi-circles ‘kissing’. This represents collaboration – the emphasis on the team and working with stakeholders to achieve project objectives.   When I first saw the logo, I didn’t think this symbol looked like an ‘M’ but when I saw it in a billboard from a distance, it did somehow morph into an ‘M’ so I was happier to see that.

The third symbol looks like a stylized ‘I’ but represents ‘determination’.  I would never have figured out that it means determination so can only guess the reasons why – it has a solid foundation and is standing proud even though it has had some lumps taken out of it!  The ‘missing’ semi-circles in this symbol echo the semi-circles of the ‘collaboration’ symbol so my logical brain finds that satisfying.

The fourth symbol is a purple cross-hatch to represent change. What I like most about the logo is that the fourth symbol is what will change in each PMI Chapter’s logo. So instead of the cross-hatch symbol, the Delaware Valley Chapter uses an icon of the Liberty Bell. The UK chapter uses a map of the UK. The Ireland Chapter will use a variant of the Celtic knot as our fourth symbol.

The main criticisms I’ve heard from people upon first seeing the logo is that it is not clear that it represents PMI and it doesn’t look like the logo of a serious professional body.  The PMI marketing team will clearly have to drive brand recognition – the swoosh was not identifiable as Nike at the start, but it became so – that is their challenge.

Is it the logo of a serious professional body?  It is certainly a move away from the ‘men in suit and tie’ image of PMI. But the profession of Project Management is moving on. Very few wear shirts and ties. There are more and more female PMs, with USA, Canada and Ireland at number 1,2 and 3 for percentage of females PMs.  To stay relevant and attract emerging PMs, the PMI needs to reach out to a very diverse and international group of Agile practitioners, and show they are not all stuffy middle aged men in suits.

And speaking as a middle aged man (who sometimes stuffs myself into a suit), I am delighted to see the PMI making this move – embracing change, taking a risk, encouraging collaboration and being determined to evolve towards Agile.

Pat Lucey, CEO of Aspira

Pat is just back from delivering an address at the PMI 50th Anniversary Congress in Philadelphia, where he got to witness the launch of the new brand at first hand.

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