University Branding: The History of UK Marketing Materials | Features






Street signs line a sidewalk outside the White Hall classroom building Wednesday, April 13, 2022 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo taken by Jack Weaver | Staff




Whether they are promoting vaccination incentives, student events or the university to prospective students, promotional material is everywhere on campus in the UK. The design, printing and distribution of these advertisements is a multi-step process supported by a plethora of UK offices to several sets of standards.

Julie Balog, UK Marketing Director, oversees UK branding. It works with the Offices of Enrollment Management and Student Success to produce marketing material in the UK, ranging from recruitment material sent to prospective students to promotional banners attached to lampposts around campus.

“When we develop these things, we put them through the lens of brand standards,” Balog said. “We know what our brand is, we know what we stand for. And so we’re really trying to bring it to life through these types of activations.

In 2019, the UK changed its brand slogan from “see blue” to “Wildly Possible”. Along with the brand overhaul came a new set of graphic standards. The 160-page brand manual, which can be downloaded for anyone with a linkblue ID, contains specific guidelines on phrases, fonts and colors that should be used on UK promotional materials. The UK chose these fonts and colors after interviewing focus groups. Balog said that after building “mood boards” with different photography styles and color palettes, the UK showed them to students, staff and alumni, asking which styles were most appealing.

The graphic standards booklet contains four main typefaces: Avenir, Surveyor, Trade Gothic and Blackbike Rough. Mercury can also be found in promotional material, usually in logos. The booklet also contains several color palettes: a neutral palette with different shades of gray, a primary palette which includes the iconic Wildcat Blue and a secondary palette, containing accent colors like a light blue called Bluegrass, a yellow called Goldenrod and a pale orange called Sunset.

“Before this iteration of Wildly Possible, there were no secondary colors available. It was blue, white, or gray, and you could have shades of blue, white, or gray, but there were no lots of secondary colors,” Balog said. “It was a process where we got a lot of feedback.”

Laura Reese, a young computer and maths student, said she liked the brand change.

“It sounds a bit cheesy, but it definitely has a much more positive connotation,” she said. “You come to the UK, you actually do something, you really learn how to do it…as opposed to just like, ‘seeing blue’ and school spirit. I think in terms of rebranding, [it] was probably the way to go.

Online branding mostly follows the same standards as printed materials, with the exception of certain fonts. Since Avenir and Surveyor are not available on all platforms, the UK offers Arial, Georgia, Lora and Muli as open source alternatives for web design.

Once the materials are designed, they are sent to a supplier on the UK Approved Supplier List for printing. The UK has used a request for proposals process, in which suppliers send proposals to the UK for approval or rejection, showcasing their skills and how they can support production, to identify supplier specialties.

“If you need something embroidered with a logo, let’s look at these two or three [vendors]. If you need signage, look at these two or three,” Balog said. “So we’re asking people to just go to the shopping website, look at who these vendors are, and then use one of these approved vendors for our process. That’s what we do, and then that’s what we ask people around us.

As far as the future of the brand is concerned, Balog is looking to expand it, creating more templates for departments outside of UK marketing to develop promotional materials that still adhere to unified brand standards.

“I look across campus and see a lot of ways the execution of this is going really, really well,” she said. “One of the things you want from a brand is that you want to be able to look at it and recognize it…and that’s not just in the design part. It’s in photography; it’s also in the way you write headlines or the way you write your copy. And so when I look around me, I see a lot of really good work going on all over campus.

Balog, however, said she was not involved in the process of designing and distributing promotions for student-run events.

This responsibility lies with the Student Activities Board in the UK, which has a team of student designers producing signs and posters. One such designer is Maddie Gatewood, a junior biology student and co-director of graphic design at SAB. Gatewood’s design process can start a semester before an event even happens because SAB events are approved and scheduled.

“The board has a particular way of setting events in stone, and we usually offer them a semester later. We have a list of all the events for this semester,” she explained. “We have a specific due date which is approximately two weeks outside of when the actual event is supposed to occur. We usually try to get them in as early as possible, as there are different levels of approval the chart needs to get.

Gatewood said SAB works with event directors, usually associated with student organizations and activities, on what they want the designs to look like, but with the exception of not being allowed to use certain university symbols or mascots, they don’t have to adhere to strict graphic standards like UK Marketing does.

“We can’t use any UK specific logos so like Bowman it’s difficult because it’s all controlled by the university. And even though we’re a university organization we’re not allowed to promote on behalf of university. So that makes it a bit difficult to use. I’ve done stickers before with Bowman on them, and we’re not allowed to use them because the university won’t approve them because it’s a college standard,” she said. “But other than that, we don’t really have any restrictions.”

Gatewood takes this opportunity to get creative with his designs – a welcome relief from his normal schedule.

“It gives me a nice little break from my classroom work, which is mostly STEM-based,” she said. “It’s really fun to look at the drawings of the event and what it’s all about and then use that as the basis for creating the graphic.”

When designing the graphics, Gatewood ensures that they are accessible and appeal to the widest possible audience. She described making sure fonts are large and legible enough for people with different levels of vision to read, as well as monitoring designs to make sure they represent a wide range of people.

She specifically recalled her experience designing promotions for the SAB Splash Bash, which took place on Saturday, March 26. When designing the graphic, which featured a group of people in inner tubes, the then vice president of promotions informed her that she had only featured white individuals in her design and recommended that she add more diversity.

“I was like, ‘Oh my God, of course I didn’t even think about that.’ Because when you’re making graphics, sometimes you don’t really notice that stuff,” she said.

Gatewood then added designs of more gender-neutral people and people of different ethnicities to ensure the final product featured “a multitude of different individuals”.

“I’ve been much more aware of that because it happened two years ago when I started in this role,” Gatewood said. “Since then, I’ve made a point of making sure the images I use are inclusive, and if they’re not, making sure there’s a way to make them inclusive. “

Andrew Butkovich, a senior language economist, is the SAB’s vice president for promotions. While Gatewood and other designers are responsible for doing the promotions themselves, Butkovich and other SAB executives approve, print, and distribute the designs.

The design, social media and information gathering process for promotional campaigns is primarily limited to the UK; for example, Gatewood designs documents with Adobe Illustrator through its linked Adobe account in the UK.

“A big advantage in this area that has to do with just going to an institution like the UK is that we have a lot of resources available to us through the university,” she said. “The UK pays for the Adobe suite for all students, and you can just get it using your linkblue. This was very helpful to me because if I didn’t have one I would have to pay for it myself.

However, when it comes to printing signs, UK works with printing companies Ricoh and Monster Color. Butkovich described these relationships as “very, very pleasant”, with both companies being “super responsive”.

Butkovich said SAB prioritizes posters and signage for its events, placing promotions in high-traffic areas like the William T. Young Library, White Hall Classroom Building and Gatton College of Business. For larger events, SAB will also create flyers to distribute to students. Event announcements are also posted on SAB’s social media channels, and the “availability and accessibility” of these multiple channels is something Butkovich appreciates. However, he also acknowledges the downsides of in-person advertising, especially with virtual learning still prevalent.

“People don’t see this stuff all the time, and I’ve spoken to people who were like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know this was happening.’ Sometimes especially [with] COVID, people don’t walk around campus as much, and then if they don’t follow us on Instagram or go to a website, they don’t see that stuff,” he said.

Reese, who gets most of his information about SGA events from campus signage, had the same problem.

“Last year, when I wasn’t walking around as much, I didn’t have as many contacts, or see them as often, so I didn’t know a lot of other SGA events,” she said. declared. “My roommates were involved, and they went to a few SGA events last year, so I got to know them by word of mouth. But other than that, there’s nowhere else I really see them. .

Reese said she finds the panels convenient and accessible.

“They’re just in a really centralized place on campus,” she said. “They’re bright, they’re colorful. I think they are well designed. They have the date and time very clearly, and you understand very quickly, just by looking at the poster, what the event is going to be.