Change Starts Here

One of the most diverse and inclusive higher education institutions in the world has reconnected with its core social purpose and crafted a powerful new story to engage students and staff.

The University of Greenwich inhabits one of the most beautiful campus sites in the whole of the UK at the stunning Royal Naval College on the banks of the Thames in South London. Yet, somehow, these grand and austere buildings are at odds with an educational establishment with deep social roots, which helps many first generation university students create a different kind of future. The University supports over 36,800 undergraduate and postgraduate students both in the UK and through some 70 partner institutions worldwide.

rbl was appointed in May 2016 to conduct a strategic brand review. The University knew it needed to re-engage with students, staff and partners to better explain how it added value, beyond being centred on the celebrated heritage site in Greenwich. What was the golden thread that connected the past, present and future of the University and its students?

Higher Education has experienced dramatic change in recent years, with fees now typically costing £9,000 per annum and set to increase further. Government policy is determined to introduce further structural change, while the impact of BREXIT and the forces of global competition are dramatically reshaping a sector that was, until recently, comfortable with the long-established status quo.

We began by holding confidential conversations with nearly 90 students, staff, partners and employers. This helped us to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. It was an open and far-ranging conversation that challenged perceptions of what ‘brand’ is all about.

Working with the Vice Chancellor and his leadership team, we then developed a clear messaging platform and reaffirmed the strategic priorities for the University.

Working across the University’s three campuses, we created this short video to bring the brand to life through the authentic and spontaneous voices of staff and students. After all, they are the brand.

With a more powerful, emotive story that explains how the university transforms lives through inspired teaching and research, rbl then looked at bringing the identity up to date.

We took the approach of turning the analogue into digital, using many of the University’s historic assets to create a contemporary and dynamic visual language. Starting with a refresh of the existing logo mark, we simplified this to ensure it performed much better in both offline and online applications.

The new identity is a flexible system that reflects the University’s inclusive, creative and ambitious values. Designers can bring their own interpretation to the brand using the powerful ‘change lines’ to reinforce ideas and messages across both traditional and digital media. Everything we have done meets the University’s clear commitment to accessibility.

We took key stakeholder groups on a journey as we introduced this bold new graphic language while ensuring that we accurately reflected the learning institution of which they are so proud. Students were involved throughout the creative process to ensure that we were reflecting their needs and aspirations in a digitally enabled world. We wanted to put students, not buildings, at the heart of the University’s story.

A new approach to communications engaged both students and staff using a campaign concept: ‘change starts here’ – a message that works on many different levels.

The revitalised brand is being rolled out internally, first to all academic and professional staff through a series of interactive workshops, and then to students as the new academic year unfolds.

"We selected rbl primarily because we knew they would be able to manage the delicate job of consulting with so many different stakeholders. They have handled this brilliantly, working quickly, diplomatically but decisively. The resulting brand platform has refocused both staff and students on what really matters and provided a clear way forward for our communications.”

Anne Poulson, Chief Operating Officer