An Innovative Outreach Program at the University of Toronto
The John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture at University of Toronto is one of the most renowned schools for architecture in Canada and offers one of the broadest range of graduate programs in North America: architecture, urban design, landscape architecture, forestry, and visual studies.
Daniels approached us to create a brand strategy and develop a new visual identity for their public outreach efforts, activities, and programs.
The solution, a dynamic brand identity system built on a unique language-centric framework, was designed for flexibility, making it easier for the marketing team to communicate the individual personality of each program.
Scope of project
Brand Strategy – Branding and Identity Design – Digital and Printed Marketing Assets – Awareness Campaign – Social Media Templates
Built upon the Daniels Faculty’s brand identity system, the new visual language created for the Daniels Faculty Outreach programming relies on its parent’s identity principles.
Designed to build visual consistency across programs and initiatives, this system was created first and foremost to complement the brand identity developed by Bruce Mau Design in 2019.
Although this new identity operates within a monolithic brand architecture, it is built to be flexible and tailored to capture the needs of its various audiences across a range of contexts. Along with this flexibility comes a responsibility to set the right visual tone when communicating the program’s distinctive features and curriculum.
The need for brand architecture
We kicked off the project with a series of workshops, combining brand strategy with design thinking, to get aligned on the vision, clarify the offering, and develop an effective strategy for the programs.
The challenge was to maintain the personality of each program within a monolithic brand architecture through visual identity, and leverage the name of Daniels, which is vital to build better brand recognition and brand awareness for the programs.
We partnered with the core team at Daniels to build a brand architecture strategy for the new system to bring clarity to the current program portfolio and carry the brand forward, while paving the way for future offers.
A brand identity toolkit is meant to simplify the system and provide guidance on how content creators should design communication materials.
The Outreach toolkit contains four elements that can be used, combined or transformed to create a variety of communication pieces while remaining on-brand.
A set of tools:
- Dynamic logo
- Colour palette
- Identity System
A living brand
The dynamic identity is based on a framework rooted in the Daniels wordmark system:
“Inspired by Daniels's home at 1 Spadina, the system is anchored by a vertical and horizontal axis that creates an invisible intersection. Daniels is stacked, occupying the upper right quadrant of the intersection.”
– Daniels Brand Standards Manual
Originally confined to the upper right quadrant of a circle and inspired by the 1 Spadina Crescent circular site, the new Outreach logo is now set free from this frame.
This visual acts as a metaphor, illustrating the Outreach activities’ purpose to reach beyond the Daniels Faculty’s walls to deliver programs where they are needed most.
Flexible branding is the term given to a visual identity that allows the logo to be adaptable, giving it the ability to change its shape, colour, font or scale depending on the context in which it is placed.
The dynamic Outreach logo is meant to be transformed.
By allowing the system to be the constant while maintaining the flexibility to adapt the wordmark for different audiences, this dynamic logo remains recognizable and leverages the brand equity of the Daniels’ brand.
The new system uses words as variables to create a wide variety of logos.
At its heart, the new visual identity has an ever-changing and innovative logo that is created to capture the promise to offer a variety of fun and creative activities.
The logo design is based on a formula that assigns a character limit to each line that depends on Daniels brand typeface
The simple algorithm generates a logotype based on three factors:
- Prioritize words recognition (words made with prefixes and suffixes)
- Lettera-Txt’s letter widths
- Spatial relationships between individual characters: Lettera-Txt’s default kerning and spacing
This formula aims to reproduce the recognizable configuration of the Daniels wordmark while freeing it from the frame.
The identity can now evolve with limitless creative possibilities.
"We embarked on the journey this past year to create new branding through directed self-reflection led by Creative Strategist Thomas Fischer.
With his guidance, we have a new suite of graphics and principles for the branding of our outreach programs that fit within the overall Daniels Faculty branding."
Nene Brode - Daniels Faculty's Manager, External Relations and Outreach
The new logotype is simple enough to act as a vessel for words that not only communicate the program’s worth to prospective students and families but also elicit emotion and personal connection.
In addition to a library of aspirational words that can be used as a starting point for the new identity, an interactive tool was developed to generate new logos to ensure a consistent presentation of the programs’ identity.
Outreach Logo Generator – TRY IT –
The colour palette is an important part of the Outreach visual identity.
The system uses an extended colour palette organized into eight colour pairings:
- Electric Byzantine
- Honey Citrus
We use a flexible approach to colour: a colour pair does not identify a program.
To provide flexibility and variety in designs, we do not colour code the programs.
Black and White can be used for inclusion and diversity initiatives (see below).
"Our programs are designed to educate, inspire and motivate the next generation of creators & makers."
"Our Daniels Faculty Outreach grew quickly, and we mix of graphics that looked disjointed overall. Working with Colette made us think carefully about our brand. They have guided us to an exciting look for our brand and developed guidelines that align with our overarching Daniels Faculty branding."
Nene Brode - Daniels Faculty's Manager, External Relations and Outreach
By putting the message front and centre, the logo communicates the individual personality of each program and aligns each piece of communication with the target audience’s motivations.
Built around the dynamic logo, the visual system is simple and confident, and provides a platform to communicate different messages that can be tailored for each program.
Letting the logo becoming the identity, the framework offers endless creative possibilities, allowing the content creators at Daniels to expand the concept to an infinite array of design options.
Using the intersection
The logo can be used to communicate important information about programs, and it can also be tailored for each communication.
Inspired by the original Daniels wordmark system, the new logo occupies the upper right quadrant of two intersecting horizontal and vertical lines.
The other quadrants can then be utilized to present information about the program: program names, dates, locations (if promoting an event), details about registration, etc.
When grouped with an image, the overall solution communicates a clear representation of what to expect from the program, with a message and image that work together to support the overall concept.
The term emotional branding refers to the practice of building an image that appeals directly to the audience’s emotional state and aspirations.
The system uses empowerment as an emotional branding strategy to create a strong emotional connection with the audience and humanize the brand.
To connect the program with the appropriate audience, the designer needs to decide which emotion she want to elicit in this audience, and choose a word that appeals to their dreams, relates to their needs, or empowers them to reach their aspirations.
Celebrating the students
When words are not enough to tell a story, photographs – whether used alone or in combination with logos – can reinforce the emotions.
From portraits to candid to editorial, the different photography styles bring this new identity to life across the website, the brand's social profiles and the brand awareness campaigns, and demonstrate how the programs are inspiring, informing and influencing Daniels’ s communities.
We developed guidelines to set the standards for using the photography to bring stories to life: “Photographs, whether used alone or in combination with logos, should adhere to four standards: evoke emotion, present diversity, show activity, be positive and fun.”
Daniels offers a variety of exciting and creative educational programs that bring curious minds together and enable them to explore their creative voices, develop their skills or simply connect with their community, in a fun and engaging environment.
For the initial awareness campaign, we developed a series of print and digital pieces to celebrate the next generation of creators and makers.
While it is important to stay on-brand when creating a campaign, these guidelines allow content creators more creative freedom to explore and experiment.
Campaign: “Bring curious minds together”
When used on a platform other than the Daniels’s website or the faculty’s social platforms (posters, banners, partners’ marketing, and publicity materials), every design application includes the official University of Toronto Crest designed for Daniels to avoid redundancy, help with brand recognition and leverage the brand equity and reputation of the faculty.
In the layout, the two logos always oppose each other, independently of the settings or the orientation.
The visual identity employs the photo collage technique to craft an atmosphere around each program. This technique captures the Outreach programs' promise to offer a variety of fun and creative activities.
Photo collages not only bring various Outreach activities to life, but they also are a creative way to tell stories or share memories (events, camps, outdoor activities).
With this technique, we can combine images in different ways and experiment with a variety of colours, shapes and textures.
An identity as playful as the programs
Each collage illustrates a program, an activity, or an event.
Composed entirely of visual elements from the Outreach programs, and enriched with animations that combined transitions, transformation effects and parallax scrolling, the collages create a truly immersive experience.
We imagined how this identity can be applied to every initiative that promotes diversity and equity to help transform the Daniels brand into a conscious brand.
This brand identity can serve as a framework to support Daniels’s social initiatives, from showing your support for a community or a movement like Black Lives Matter to promoting gender diversity in architecture.
Pivoting from live to virtual?
We knew from recent experience that during these special times of COVID-19, the list of initial applications and deliverables will evolve; and the last thing we wanted was to create a project scope that prevents us to deliver all the tools the team needed to manage their marketing initiatives for the next events or brand activation campaigns this year.
Ultimately, the evolution of the pandemic will dictate the initial design applications.
We created simple-to-use print and digital templates to help the team shift their strategy to navigate their digital marketing presence during COVID-19.
Fire up enthusiasm for the programs
As Daniels continues to expand its offerings, add new programs, and form new partnerships, the branding and marketing decisions will become more complex.
The primary objective of the brand identity is to bring consistency, and visual order to all programs to bring clarity to the current program.
The collaboration with the passionate team at Outreach infuses the process with enthusiasm, challenging us to explore new territories for the brand.
The result is a modern brand identity platform that will not only resonate with its participants and prospective families but inspire the partners, and the community at large. A brand that everyone at Daniels Faculty can champion in their everyday lives.
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