Currently Reading

Campus UX: Why universities should be creating 'branded environments' on campus

Campus UX: Why universities should be creating 'branded environments' on campus


Gensler | August 13, 2014
Good branding brings the built environment to life. Images: Gensler

When most colleges and universities consider their brands, they rarely venture beyond the design and implementation of a logo. Time and time again we have seen this “logo” inconsistently used on brochures and buildings without further thought into the potential power of branding.

By failing to delve deeper into this “potential power,” universities fail to capitalize on this profound opportunity to reinforce their specific set of ideals. Simply put, a good brand does more than establish a visual language; it creates an immersive experience for every person who interacts with the campus; it enhances the lives of students and faculty by uniting them under a shared sense of values and goals; it engenders loyalty with alumni, which as a result significantly can increase the percentage of donations. 

Having a short-sighted mindset in regards to branding and not approaching it in a holistic manner will not allow a university to fully engage with existing and prospective students, faculty, and alumni, as well as the outside world.

In its infancy, a brand may start with a visual but it should go beyond a simple sensory experience. A “good” brand engages students before they’ve even set foot on campus; it communicates specific ideals and traits associated with the university; it takes a simple visual cue, like a logo, graphic or color, and turns it into a defining perspective; it frames this perspective within the student’s point of view; it allows the student to comprehend how faculty and other services can help achieve their specific goals; and it attracts prospective students by piquing their interest and promising to deliver. 

A “good” brand permeates through the technologies, which now allow us so many new freedoms. The brand provides choices and lets students, as well as others, take control. Today, people no longer want to be told what to do; therefore they want universities to reflect their own values, and with that, a universities’ brand is incorporated into their decision-making process to help determine which school is the right fit.

Today, students, want to study in a setting which mirrors a particular lifestyle and makes them feel comfortable. As a result, campuses are beginning to incorporate elements from disciplines such as hospitality and urban design. Universities are diversifying their offerings, and as they do this they are creating cohesive visual languages, which reflect their brands and engage students. On campus, a strong brand integrates itself into the built environment in an organic manner.

Gone are the drab white walls and generic classrooms of yesteryear. Universities now want every facet of the built environment to communicate a specific message and to cater to a unique experience. The “one-size fits all” approach to classroom and building design is a thing of the past. Every available visual landscape on campus must now convey differentiated information to users. Integrating a university’s brand through comprehensive signage, the application of clear visual language, and design features that speak to the functionality of each space helps realize this goal.

By creating a sense of place within each building, universities not only enhance the overall learning environment but also increase rates of retention. We live in an experience-driven society where everything from going shopping to attending a sports game is singular. Successful campuses mimic this pattern. If the on-campus experience isn’t memorable, if it doesn’t transcend into the student’s post-graduate professional world, then the probability of that student staying in contact with the university and giving back to ensure that future students enjoy the same benefits considerably diminishes.

A significant advantage of a lasting brand is loyal alumni. Strong alumni contributions reflect an assigned worth that a graduate associates with the institution or university post-graduation. This assigned worth conveys the impact or perception of the individual’s experience and demonstrates their higher education chapter has influenced or changed their lives for the better. An affinity to the university has been created and a sense of pride to take care of their kinship results in an obligation to give back and ensure the vitality of the university.

At the end of the day, a “good” university brand doesn’t just influence a student; it becomes a part of that student’s personal identity. Graduates of universities with strong brands identify themselves as alumni for the rest of their lives. They flaunt not only their degrees but the experiences that came with those degrees. They wear their association with “their” university like a badge of honor and are eager to advertise it to the rest of the world.

At its core, higher education branding is the process of taking the characteristics which make a university great, and expressing those characteristics through emotive experiences which ultimately enhance learning and the overall on-campus experience. On-campus comprehensive and immersive branding at universities will be a significant trend in higher education over the coming years. The only question is what universities and colleges will get ahead of the curve and which ones will trail behind.

About the Author
Brian Brindisi is a design director for the Lifestyle-Brand Design studio and Regional Brand Design Leader at Gensler's New York office. His portfolio includes education, mixed-use, cultural, and corporate projects. Outside of Gensler, Brian continues to serve as an Adjunct Professor at the School of Visual Arts where he teaches visual identity and branding. Contact him at brian_brindisi@gensler.com.

 

More posts from the GenslerOn blog

More from Author

Gensler | Sep 4, 2020

The office building of the future should be an essential part of its community

When the dust settles, the office is going to look and feel like a different place than the one we left in March.

Gensler | May 12, 2020

Understanding the touchless workplace

In the workplace, digital solutions and platforms have eliminated some of the noise by improving guest check-in, conference room booking, company communications, wayfinding, food and beverage service, and more.

Gensler | Mar 27, 2020

Designing healthcare for surge capacity

We believe that part of the longer-term answer lies not just with traditional health providers, but in the potential of our cities and communities to adapt and change.

Gensler | Mar 18, 2020

We are in the midst of a paradigm shift for higher education

The question for higher education is, what will the university of the future look like?

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

Designing office building lobbies to respond to the coronavirus

Touch-free design solutions and air purifiers can enhance workplace wellness.

Gensler | Mar 15, 2020

In the face of the coronavirus, workplace wellness is key

Here are a few considerations employers should keep in mind in creating plans for a healthy and effective work environment.

Gensler | Feb 11, 2020

Want your organization to be more creative? Embrace these 4 workplace strategies

Creativity is the secret sauce in the success of every business.

Gensler | Oct 17, 2019

Doubling down on our commitment to resilience

With hundreds of millions of square feet of buildings and interior design projects in the pipeline annually, we believe our impact and role in reducing energy demand is critical.

Gensler | Jul 15, 2019

Hospitals are moving into their communities

Below are five strategies to improve access and patient experience.

Gensler | May 20, 2019

How the Internet of Things will transform airport environments

Connected devices and their wealth of data have led to significant improvements in operational efficiency and passenger experience in airports.

More In Category



How open is too open for you office?

Our data reveal what is truly going on in the current workplace, with insights on how workplace design can deliver new value to organizations.



Magazine Subscription
Subscribe

Get our Newsletters

Each day, our editors assemble the latest breaking industry news, hottest trends, and most relevant research, delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe

Follow BD+C: