University of Colorado Boulder

Brand Identity, Campaigns

A branding campaign for the university that centers on the tagline "Be Boulder," inspired by the school and city's adventurous spirit.

In 2013, the University of Colorado Boulder (CU-Boulder) began unveiling a new visual strategy created by Pentagram. The designers worked closely with the university's communications team led by Frances Draper, Michael T. Campbell and Jon Leslie to develop the comprehensive branding initiative.

An updated identity scheme designed by Landor Associates was adopted by the University in 2010. The University of Colorado system includes CU Denver, CU Colorado Springs, CU Anschutz Medical Campus (in Denver) and the original campus in Boulder. The designers were engaged by CU-Boulder a year ago this month and tasked with the challenge of developing a visual strategy that would distinguish the mothership from the other three campuses in the University of Colorado system. The new strategy needed to convey the distinctive personality of CU-Boulder without violating the systemwide identity guidelines developed by Landor.

Additionally the Pentagram team had to find a solution that satisfied the other objectives of the assignment. The visual strategy had to unify the different academic entities and be embraced by those varied and disparate groups. Branding initiatives had been concocted in the past that were ignored and eventually discarded because they weren't dynamic or flexible enough to be useful to the various interests that inhabit the campus. The new visual strategy also needed to fully engage CU alumni and the Boulder community, and it was necessary to emphasize the university's significant research contributions to the state of Colorado and the nation. Ultimately, the strategy needed to shift perceptions of CU-Boulder.

In the end the Pentagram team landed on the tagline "Be Boulder," a simple declaration with an obvious double meaning. Boulder, Colorado, situated at the base of the Rocky Mountains, is breathtaking in its rugged, natural beauty and known for its adventurous spirit and laid-back attitude. Boulder is truly a state of mind, and to "Be Boulder" is to be daring and open to the possibilities. These are the same qualities CU-Boulder instills in its academic rigor and groundbreaking research programs.

To compliment the "Be Boulder" tagline the Pentagram team developed a full set of visual communication tools and provided guidance and recommendations on how to use the system effectively. Visual strategy guidelines were prepared and Stout and Keiser conducted workshops on campus to ensure the proper execution and application of the new branding tools. Focus groups conducted over the summer confirmed the viability and popularity of the straightforward concept. The first round of the campaign, a series of banners around campus and bus wraps, will roll-out to the public in February.

DJ Stout
Project team
Kristen Keiser
Stu Taylor
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