The challenge: Develop a standalone identity within a higher ed. brand architecture.

Developing a branded look for a professional school or an adjacent initiative within a higher education institution are familiar tasks. But our engagement with the Robson Hall Faculty of Law (University of Manitoba) involved a higher degree of complexity. 

As with other named entities within colleges and universities, there is equity in the Robson Hall name, especially for law students, alumni, and peer institutions. And because the faculty would be doing direct outreach for students and talent who were specifically attracted to the study of the law, there was merit for a dedicated visual platform tailored to the faculty’s key audiences.

But both the naming convention and graphic approach needed to be balanced with the overarching visual identity of the University of Manitoba (U of M) proper. And midway through our engagement, the branded look for the U of M changed based on the Trailblazer campaign – and on the strength of that evolution, Robson Hall wanted its identity to keep in step.

So, while the desire to stand apart was pervasive, the degree to which Robson Hall would deviate from the institutional communications evolved over our engagement.

An opportunity to prove the sub brand model for a recently-rebranded institution.

This also represented an incredible opportunity to prove the Trailblazer institutional brand model. Robson Hall was among the first faculties to embrace the university’s new institutional brand, and to request its own voice within that broader platform. It was ED’s opportunity to prove the adaptability of the new brand expression – and in doing so, encourage more buy-in at the faculty and department level.

The solution: Interpret and elevate the unique aspects of the faculty.

Visual identity

To ensure that a new brand identity would be supported by faculty stakeholders, we designed and led a consultation program that included in person discussions and email/online surveys to students, faculty, researchers and alumni. Their feedback was reflected to a brand committee and the faculty Dean for further input.

Based on the research, several differentiating factors emerged for Robson Hall: the unprecedented level of access to the law community, the diversity of faculty and the student body, and their commitment to innovation.

One key factor that informed our creative, however, was the notion of learning not just the theory of law, but also the practical skills required to be a lawyer, and helping students ‘think like a lawyer’. This was reinforced by Robson Hall’s ability to offer students more direct and applicable hands-on experience and access to the legal community in Manitoba. This was reflected in the accounts of articling students and recent alumni, who told us they had been working on cases with a higher degree of responsibility than their counterparts in other markets. Consultation participants said that this resulted in a higher proportion of job-ready lawyers emerging from the faculty.

What does it look like to ‘think like a lawyer?’

The notion of ‘think like a lawyer,’ and the context that respondents provided to support it, directly influenced our approach to a visual identity system. It evoked ideas of looking at ideas from different perspectives, and drawing on a number of different sources – precedents and comparable situations – to form a clear judgment. We were moved by how seeking out multiple ideas resulted in a multi-faceted view on any given case or judgment.

Robson Hall Faculty of Law

We reflected that inspiration in a graphic pattern that was composed of multiplying layers of blue, a colour that denotes balance and trust. The foundational shade of blue was selected from the institution’s secondary palette, which provided alignment with the overarching graphic standards. As each layer overlapped, the hues would get get darker, and facets appeared in the pattern. The angular nature of the pattern used sharp lines to denote the precision required to consider and render a judgement, even in the face of many (sometimes conflicting) viewpoints.

Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law

While the visual identity for Robson Hall was in progress, ED was engaged by the University of Manitoba to develop an institutional brand – which would result in the Trailblazer campaign. With these two initiatives dovetailing, and with individual Faculties embracing the new institutional brand, Robson Hall became one of the first Faculties to adopt the brand, and adapt it to their individual marketing needs.

The institutional brand was built off of a foundational, research-driven brand idea: Where you are shapes who you are. This idea was inextricable from the insights that led to Robson Hall’s identity, in particular the feedback we received about how the faculty’s access to the legal community in Manitoba was unrivalled nationwide. We leveraged the theme of vision – one of the ‘power words’ from the institutional campaign, and a muse for our visual identity exploration – into a recruitment call to action for Robson Hall: Pursue your vision.

Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law
Robson Hall Faculty of Law

We worked with the faculty to identify several current students who represented the diversity of the faculty – another of the differentiating factors that emerged in our discovery exercise. The photography was applied to various materials, including Robson Hall’s website, and display materials that were used at faculty events and recruitment fairs.

The Trailblazer brand has changed how we think about ourselves, how we speak about ourselves, and most importantly, how we act. It’s challenged us to go beyond the expected and has made a huge contribution to our success.
John Kearsey,
Fmr. VP External, University of Manitoba