Branding & Mission

I’ve been posting weekly comments on our readings in the course “The Role of Higher Education in a Democracy” (EDHE 6700). This is the post for Week 13, Spring 2010.

Although it was a mere sideline in chapter seven’s consideration of what students want and need in college, I was most interested this week in the point made that “brand” is really another way of stating how well colleges convey their mission (Tierney, p.147). This is a succinct, insightful statement. Branding is not simply about having a mission, but about communicating that mission clearly and consistently.

UNT underwent several branding changes over the past two years; the most visible outcomes were the redesign of the college logo, adjustment of the school colors, and a standardization change from referring to the school as “University of North Texas” to “UNT.” Each of these branding shifts were made for distinct reasons.

The logo redesign reflected the university’s shift as it has become a more professional, competitive school. The logo is more “styled” than the previous logo, which wasn’t truly a formal logo but merely a specific font used to write the school name. The presence of a “styled” logo indicates professionalism because the design itself communicates that professionals were employed even to design the logo (and also makes the school stand out). The logo style is also more modern, indicating that UNT relates to students (touching on the “student-centered-ness” of the university). The update of the school color from dark green to a brighter “jungle” green also points to relevancy with current students.

The standardization of referring to the institution as “UNT” underscored the new “research university” mission, by setting UNT apart from the UT system.  This subtle shift was carefully orchestrated to show that UNT is an independent system, capable of its own high-quality research. Further, the university sent a system-wide email in 2009 requesting that all areas of UNT update their websites and paperwork to use “UNT” in place of “University of North Texas,” to ensure consistency.  This consistency both enhances the communication of the mission (by ensuring that the mission is communicated from all areas), and also furthers the impression that UNT is a professional institution with high standards.

As I’m sure this post reflects, I believe that graphic design is a crucial part of the professionalism and effective communication of any institution (or corporation). I think this is overlooked far too often in educational institutions and specifically in libraries. I realize that this is often because these groups cannot afford to employ professionally-trained graphic artists (which can command high salaries in the corporate sector), and employing art students means a high turnover rate. However, image is a crucial part of maintaining and communicating a specific image, and administrators need to be aware of that potential power.

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