At the founding of the University of Sussex, their first Vice-Chancellor, John Fulton, urged the University’s students to direct their studies towards “making the future”.
As part of the new wave of higher education institutions that sought to challenge the orthodoxy of red brick universities in the 1960s, Sussex became renowned for its research, attracted Nobel Prize-winning staff, developed an activist reputation and became one of the top 20 universities in the UK.
Despite this, an inconsistent approach to identity and communications had left the University without the personality or story to match. As a result, Sussex had no discernible edge when it came to attracting new undergraduates and postgraduates and was losing students—and their tuition fees—as a result.
Pentagram has refreshed the University’s brand, creating a visual identity, messaging system and advertising campaign that reorientates the University around Fulton’s vision. Executed with the brand behaviours of Authentic, Spirited and Connected, Pentagram has applied ‘Making the Future’ flexibly and consistently across Sussex’s visual and verbal communication.
The brand refresh modernises the University’s visual identity, introducing new colourways, layouts and photography styles that make Sussex’s communication materials clean, proud, vibrant and relevant.
As well as retaining Sussex’s distinctive ‘US’ ligature (designed by Blast), Pentagram has taken inspiration from the visual language of early prospectuses—identified during an extensive audit of the University’s physical archive—to develop a copy-driven graphic system for Sussex, placing bold messaging at the heart of promotional materials.
The messaging system is built around the idea of ‘Let’s Change Things’, a powerful translation of ‘Making The Future’, and one that feels true to Sussex’s proud past as well accessible and motivating to every new student. ‘Let’s Change Things’ acts as a language unit that provides Sussex’s communications with a cumulative strength that looks and feels coherent.
This language unit is complemented with a graphic system that places bold statements over boldly-coloured ‘US’ ligatures. The rallying lines and letterpress style of the executions are a modern nod to Sussex’s activist past, but suggest the purposeful and progressive flavour of activism that still runs through the campus today.
Like the language unit, Pentagram has built the design signature with longer lines and photography for larger space sizes, and more economical, type-only executions for smaller space sizes.
As well as the identity refresh and messaging system, Pentagram has expanded ‘Let’s Change Things’ into a highly-visible manifesto advertising campaign, used by Sussex for open days, clearance and offer acceptance. The line is built up into short-form and mid-form content for bought media, and scaled back to #letschangethings for social media.
The campaign includes online banners, print, outdoor, social media and materials for students who attend open days. The scalable language unit and the design signature means that every iteration of the campaign shares the same powerful and coherent spirit.
The campaign has been a huge success for the University, giving a real sense of personality and purpose back to the University and has resulted in a 25% increase in undergraduates coming to Sussex.