“Most businesses focus on the wrong things when thinking about their brand,” says Jason Mark ’95, ’96 MEd. “It’s easy to focus on the color or shape of a logo, but brand is really about the entire experience.” Mark is the co-founder and creative lead of design firm Gravity Switch, which worked with the UMass Amherst Alumni Association to refresh its brand.

According to Mark, one of the first things to remember is that brand development must be considerate and inclusive of all stakeholders. “Brand cannot be dictated down from a marketing department.”

In the case of the Alumni Association, alumni opinions played an important role in refreshing its brand; a comprehensive survey completed in 2014 provided insights into alumni interests and preferences.

Another key consideration in brand development is what you want people to understand and feel about your business.  “The Alumni Association is dedicated to enhancing the UMass experience through our communications, online services, events, volunteer opportunities and Alumni Networks,” says Elena Lamontagne, director of alumni communications and marketing. “Our brand reflects the ongoing value of those programs and the pride we all feel in UMass Amherst.”

Mark and his firm, based in Northampton, MA, have been guiding businesses through similar marketing considerations since 1996. Gravity Switch has worked with companies such as Disney, Honda, Sega, Nuance, Yale University, MassMutual and Hartford Life Insurance, to name only a few.

“We are in the business of moving companies forward,” says Mark, “whether that’s through web design, mobile app development or brand management.”

The company also believes in hiring UMass talent. UMass graduates currently working at Gravity Switch include Ketesah Trudeau, Corey Condardo and Ben West-Weyner.

Mark earned his bachelor’s degree in art and went on to receive a master’s degree in education from UMass Amherst. He was one of the first dozen web design instructors in the country in the mid-1990s.

“The amazing thing about UMass is that it appears very big and bureaucratic,” notes Mark, “but when you find your niche, you’re going to meet really amazing people both in and out of the classroom. We wouldn’t have been able to start our business without what we learned there.”

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Profile by Elena Lamontagne
Photo by Kimberly Hatch