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From Sigma Nu to Global Brand Transformation: The SHR Branding Journey

By Dominic Frattura (Arizona State)

In the vibrant year of 1967, three young men, Barry Shepard, Tom Harland, and Will Rodgers, crossed paths at the chapter house of the Zeta Upsilon Chapter of Sigma Nu at Arizona State University. They immediately connected over their shared passion for creativity and innovation. Little did they know that this chance encounter would mark the beginning of a remarkable journey that would leave a lasting impact on the world of branding.

Their first collaborative endeavor saw the men leading a pledge-class project, where they were tasked with an ambitious transformation of the chapter house into the mythical Lost City of Atlantis. Their visionary design won accolades and laid the foundation for an unbreakable bond between them. 

A few years later, in 1970, a spark of inspiration would meet the three brothers, changing their lives forever. As the summer heat sizzled, Barry, Tom, and Will found themselves grumbling about their mundane jobs. It was then that Will suggested an audacious idea - starting their own company. The notion seemed surreal, but they decided to seize the opportunity. "All we need is a business card," said Will, and so SHR Visual Communications was born.

Armed with their first SHR business card, they ventured into the world of design communications. Harlan, however, decided to pursue a different path, leaving Will and Barry to carry the torch. Little did they know that their fate was intricately linked with a cartoon Devil logo.

In 1971, Barry, a College of Advertising and Design student and track and field athlete who set the university’s high jump record, wanted to give ASU's Devil logo a more powerful image. He crafted a new Sun Devil logo, winning the hearts of students. However, their dream of seeing it on the football team's helmets for the Peach Bowl was shattered when a threatened alumni contributor intervened. But fate had a different plan for SHR.

The Phoenix business community noticed their talent and passion through the ASU logo redesign effort, and the doors of opportunity swung wide open. Companies like Valley Bank, Phoenix Suns, APS, and McDonald's sought their creative expertise. Soon, they embarked on a journey beyond their wildest dreams.

Their fraternity brother, Bob Mouser, entrusted SHR with transforming the Delta Steamboat Company into a fierce competitor among the largest cruise lines. The success of the Delta Queen project attracted more prominent cruise line clients, propelling SHR into national prominence.

Audi's 5000S showroom brochure beckoned, and SHR's exceptional work marked the beginning of a decade-long partnership. Audi, GMC trucks, Jaguar, Volkswagen, and the iconic New Beetle all fell under the visionary guidance of SHR's talent for transformational branding.

From local graphic designers to global brand transformers, SHR Transformational Branding's vision soared to new heights. They defined a "Transformational Brand" as a promise made and kept by the entire organization, experienced by the customer. Their work resonated worldwide, and the accolades poured in.

In 1990, SHR launched the Innovative Thinking Conference, a nexus of brilliance where visionaries converged to reshape industries. What began as a gathering evolved into an Intellectual Rock Opera, uniting thinkers, doers, and creators like Peter Drucker, C.K. Prahalad, and Malcolm Gladwell. This annual event dismantled boundaries, fusing minds from diverse sectors like sports, business, and art. It amplified the truth that diverse minds collectively outperform solitary brilliance, embodying Bell Labs' wisdom. This conference ignited transformative collaborations with participants like Audi, Nike, and Harvard Business School, magnifying the power of shared ingenuity.

SHR clearly echoes the philosophy that diversity in thought yields enduring excellence. The Innovative Thinking Conference exemplified this, offering an arena where luminaries, including aviator Burt Rutan, comedian Steve Wright, and author Norman Mailer, provoked new dimensions of thought. Its intellectual intersection birthed possibilities anew, propelling companies like Ford, DuPont, and Johnson & Johnson to ever greater heights. Just as Bell Labs demonstrated, time and collective wisdom outshine individual feats. The Innovative Thinking Conference radiates this truth, nurturing partnerships that redefine industries and steer the course of innovation.

Throughout the journey, they celebrated victories, mourned losses, and cherished brotherhood. Barry's untimely passing in 2012 left an indelible void, but his legacy lived on through his family and the impactful work of SHR.

Today, SHR Branding stands tall as a testament to the power of creativity, innovation, and brotherhood. From the Zeta Upsilon Chapter house to the world stage, their captivating journey continues to inspire generations of Sigma Nus and beyond.

© 2015-2022 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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