Fairfax County Public Schools


Situation / Challenge

With 196 schools and centers serving almost 190,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grade, Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS) is the largest school system in the Commonwealth of Virginia and the 10th largest in the United States. The school system has approximately 24,000 full-time employees and its student population represents more than 200 countries and more than 160 languages. FCPS’ mission is to inspire and empower students to meet high academic standards, lead healthy and ethical lives, and be responsible and innovative global citizens.

FCPS required a full-service agency with a core competency in branding to help the school system define its brand positioning, provide overarching and audience-segmented messaging, and design a new visual identity. By re-branding, FCPS sought to solidify the school system as a trusted partner who is passionate about and committed to providing an excellent education for its students and a rewarding work environment for its employees, as well as being a proud and integral part of the broader Fairfax community.

Key objectives included:

  • Assessing current FCPS impressions and attributes among key stakeholders, including parents, students, principals, teachers, school board members, administrative staff, community partners, and department leads; and reviewing value propositions of like-sized, highly ranked public school systems.

  • Developing a research-based brand positioning strategy, including key messaging and tagline

  • Developing a new visual identity for FCPS using research findings and key messaging, including a logo and a comprehensive brand guidelines document

Our Strategic Approach

Beginning with the research phase, Sage reviewed all available resources, including existing FCPS messaging and strategic plans, examined the messaging and branding of similar school systems, and conducted a messaging session with the FCPS school board. Findings were then presented to the Superintendent and Office of Communication and Community Relations (CCR).

Key messaging delivered in the findings presentation then drove the development of the new FCPS brand identity, which was finalized in the form of a comprehensive brand guidelines manual, outlining proper usage of the logo and tagline, color palette, typography, template examples, and messaging. Sage worked closely with CCR to develop a project timeline and ensure all deliverables were completed on time and within the project scope.


FCPS introduced the new brand visual identity in the Fall 2016 school year, when FCPS Superintendent Dr. Karen Garza began incorporating Sage’s messaging into communications to parents, teachers, students, and other FCPS staff. More recently, the new Sage-developed brand messaging was included in critical FCPS communications that were delivered to external stakeholders regarding the FY 2017 budget proposal to the FCPS School Board.