Earlier this year, just in time for the spring semester 2015, the University of Basel launched its redesigned website. But that was not all: With it came a complete rebranding. We talked to Matthias Geering, Head of Communications & Marketing, to get the inside scoop on their new corporate design.
Q: What was the objective of the rebranding?
We had three main goals: First, a uniform appearance across all media, online and print. Second, we wanted to create an identity that works for the university as a whole, but also for the individual faculties. The challenge was to create a university-wide brand without losing the identity of the individual faculties. And last but not least, the website and the whole design had to work in both German and English. This means we now have a logo in both languages.
Q: Why now?
It was time for a website redesign, but also time for a brand overhaul. The University of Basel has many autonomous faculties, it is very fragmented and the branding was not very clear nor consistent. To ensure brand recognition, a rebranding exercise was a logic step.
Q: You are putting mint-green color front and center. Why is color so important in the new design?
Our agency had the brilliant idea to make the color the most important feature of the new brand. It lets us safeguard the identities of the different faculties and departments by unifying the visual design with one common color.
Particularly because the first faculties were established 550 years ago, they see themselves as the heart and soul of the university. We created a color surface and banner, where both logos, university and faculty, find their place. With this balance the individual identity of the faculties is not lost. Especially in combination with the placement of the logos this color works very well. Plus it’s subtle enough to let other visuals such as photos stand out, rather than being the focal point.
Q: What’s the key success for rebranding?
The tipping point is that all institutions and decision-makers are willing to enforce the corporate design. A clean brand management means that you have to lead it from one place, especially at such a fragmented institution like a university. But it’s a fine line between leadership and still allowing other departments some freedom.
Q: Who was part of the project?
We built a committee composed of people from different institutions and backgrounds: different faculties, but also departments such as student services and the international office. The goal was to involve different stakeholders from the beginning to get different perspectives and buy-in. The overall lead was with me, and I managed it together with an intern.
All in all it took us about two years and some parts are still ongoing. Migrating all faculty and department websites into the new CMS will keep us busy for the next three to four years. It’s not just a new design, the user interface and user guidance should also improve, as well as the content: more pictures and videos, less text for example.
One of the most recent projects was the relaunch of our magazine “Uni Nova” in a new design. It’s a research magazine, but it should be a publication for the public, not just for scientists. That means more pictures and content created for a broader audience, not just the academic audience.
Q: Is rebranding a University brand similar to rebranding a consumer brand?
The process is completely different. You have to convince a lot of people. It’s always hard to make changes in an environment that has so much history. It needs time. That’s not always easy, but in the end the results are more sustainable.
Q: How was the feedback on the new brand?
I would say predominantly positive. Some of it was critical, but it was appropriate. For instance the website is not perfect yet. There are still issues to solve and improve.
Q: How satisfied are you with the results?
I’m extremely satisfied and I received a lot of positive feedback from other university employees. A brand is only as good as the community that adopts it. Success is when people identify with the brand and become ambassadors.