Why creating visual identity resources supported by technology infrastructure is key to 21st century college and university branding.

In order to survive and thrive in today’s oft-cutthroat student admissions competition, creating a visual identity for your academic institution should beabout more than simply adopting a few generic best practices for campus outreach and communications. At its core, any initiative should also represent a campaign for university-wide cohesive branding, one that allows administrators and educators to proactively manage a school’s representation while empowering its constituents.

Thus, while the practical end goal for your campaign might be to create a unified “look or feel,” in the broader picture, the true aim of adopting an integrated visual identity should be to create a loyal community of stakeholders—including students, professors, and staff—and to differentiate your institution from its competition by leveraging technology infrastructure.

Here are three considerations to follow:

1. Get Campus Buy-In

Alina Wheeler, branding expert and author of Designing Brand Identity, notes that “a strong brand stands out in a densely crowded marketplace. People fall in love with brands, trust them, and believe in their superiority.” This is just as important to educators and administrators as it is to private sector marketers. Student and staff buy-in is vital to an educational community’s success, and can be measured both at the level of classroom engagement and through annual enrollment numbers.

Recognizing the essential role cohesive branding plays both online and offline in our current educational landscape, many institutions have begun adopting more overt visual identity initiatives. However, for most schools, these campaigns amount to little more than a list of dictums, which departments and programs often adopt haphazardly, leading to scattershot representation—including materials that may, on occasion, even violate campus copyright agreements.

(Next page: Open access and technology infrastructure are critical)

About the Author:

Bob McDonald is an award-winning teacher and advocate for sustainable educational technologies. For the past 20 years, he has focused on supporting innovation and creativity across educational institutions. After starting his education career in the Baltimore City Public Schools, Bob went on to become an award-winning teacher who explored the impact of emerging technologies on teaching and learning. After leaving the classroom, Bob launched several successful for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that provided innovative and sustainable technology platforms for education. Currently, Bob is the Director of Education Services at VideoBlocks for Education in Reston, VA.

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