The challenge: Developing a faculty brand within a university brand.
Professional faculties within a higher education environment have unique challenges for marketing and positioning. Because they speak to a specific subset of students – those wanting to be doctors, dentists, pharmacists, etc. – they often warrant a marketing and creative platform apart from the university ‘mothership.’ The degree to which that creative platform deviates from the institution ranges widely from institution to institution.
There were additional wrinkles to consider for the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences at the University of Manitoba. First, the university had recently undergone an academic restructuring initiative, which resulted in the consolidation of a number of faculties in an effort to reduce administrative redundancies. One of the faculties that emerged was the Faculty of Health Sciences: an amalgamation of the former Faculties – now Colleges – of Dentistry (and the School of Dental Hygiene), Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Rehabilitation Sciences.
Faculty leaders regarded the visual identity initiative as an opportunity to convey a unified faculty, rather than a segmented one – what designers sometimes refer to as a ‘branded house’ (rather than a ‘house of brands’) approach.
Second, as with many professional schools, the Faculty of Health Sciences and its College of Medicine had recently received a transformational gift – resulting in the naming of these two entities within the interdisciplinary faculty. We knew that naming opportunities for other colleges within the faculty were also in negotiation, and needed to account for that possibility in our approach.
A visual identity for this faculty needed to provide a distinct look and feel for students; a unified look and feel for the newly-formed faculty; a tether to the University of Manitoba graphic standards; and an appropriate amount of distinction and flexibility for naming recognition.
The solution: Finding flexibility inside a set of graphic standards.
Our exploration began by referencing the university’s crest, which provided a strong foundational link to the parent brand. The contours of the crest led to the development of a new shield for the faculty, which we set in a complementary blue to align with the university’s brown and gold colour palette. (Our use of a complementary colour would resurface when we would later revisit the visual identity for the university.)
To provide distinction within the interdisciplinary faculty, each college was also assigned its own colour – all derived from the university’s secondary palette – to ensure they were compatible with both the faculty blue and the institution’s primary palette.
The faculty and college shields are paired with a simple bar graphic device, lending a minimalistic professionalism to the applicable materials. This approach facilitated the consistent application of the visual approach for the faculty’s in-house design team who would be responsible for the development of marketing materials for all five colleges.
Typography provided the new visual identity further distinction from the overarching brand, while linking to the university’s graphic standards. By assigning a specific text weight of the Knockout typeface, the faculty and its colleges use a distinctive headline approach that still feels aligned with the institution.
To ensure a balance of flexibility and consistency in application, the visual identity was applied to numerous sample applications: from style sheets for an alumni magazine, to e-reader brochures, to email templates. Illustrating an array of applications provided the faculty (and its colleges) with a unique visual voice for each of their specific audiences, while working within the standards of the institution.