The University of Western Ontario has introduced a new brand identity as part of a strategic plan aimed at bolstering its profile and reputation both in Canada and abroad.
The rebrand, which was formally unveiled Jan. 26, is the result of a year-long process that included consultation with nearly 5,000 faculty members, staff, students and alumni.
It includes a new coat of arms featuring a custom-created font (“Hellmuth,” named after the university’s founder, Bishop Isaac Hellmuth), and the formal adoption of the post-secondary institution’s more frequently used name, Western.
The latter change reflects survey findings indicating that 86% of respondents refer to the London, Ont.-based post-secondary institution as “Western” as opposed to its official name, which will continue to grace degrees and diplomas.
The rebrand was completed by Toronto design agency Hahn Smith Design, which was among more than 20 agencies to respond to an RFP issued last year and beat out six other shortlisted agencies for the assignment.
Terry Rice, director of marketing and creative services for Western, said that prior to the rebrand, the university employed as many as 70 different logos for its various research centres, institutes and faculties, not including those used by student groups across the campus.
“We were in a situation where we needed to unify our image,” he said. “To go out with visual identity that included 70-plus logos would just water down our messaging.”
The post-secondary institution retained its trademark purple (one of Rice’s favourite survey responses was “lose purple at your peril”), but amended the colour slightly – from pantone 266 to pantone 268 for those keeping score – to optimize its appearance on digital screens.
Hahn Smith replaced the so-called “tower” logo introduced in 2000 with an updated version of the coat of arms that includes the addition of both a maple leaf and Western’s founding date of 1878. It also replaced one of the demi-lions with the same stag that adorns the city of London’s coat of arms.
The new logo also includes a custom font created by designer Ian Brignell, who has worked with such disparate clients as Bell, Burger King and Harvard.
“I think the university environment has changed a lot over the last 10, 15 years,” said Rice. “We are competing for students and the very brightest faculty and staff, and having a consistent unified brand and voice is critical.”
Western is in the middle of a strategic plan aimed at making it more appealing to students outside both Ontario and Canada’s borders. International enrollment at Western is currently below the provincial average, said Rice, but the number of first-year international undergraduates has tripled since Amit Chakma took over as president in 2009.
The ultimate objective, said Rice, is for 2 in every 10 students to come from outside of the province or the country.