DU introduces a refreshed brand

When it comes to brand identity, the University of Denver has more than 150 years of achievements and service to draw on. 

But every brand, no matter how rooted in tradition and success, needs the occasional update and refreshed look to ensure relevancy in an ever-changing world.

In September, as part of a multiyear, multiphase initiative, the University unveiled a new brand foundation, complete with a visual identity system that includes striking fonts, an expanded palette of colors, and a modernized logo featuring an interlocking D and U. Also included: a robust messaging system that emphasizes DU’s strengths and differentiators.

The evolved brand, says DU Chancellor Jeremy Haefner, unites the institution’s many programs and two campuses while giving impetus to DU’s strategic imperatives—developed to ensure that DU can flourish in an increasingly competitive higher education marketplace.

“We know what this institution means to its students, alumni, faculty and staff,” Haefner says. “DU is a vibrant hub of learning, world-class research, and service to the public good in Colorado and across the Rocky Mountain West. But when we took a close look at the effectiveness of our branding, it became apparent we’re not as well known outside of the Mountain West as we should and could be.”

Remedying that begins with building on the University’s legacy and amplifying its distinctive story—a story that encompasses everything from rigorous academics to the University’s emphasis on world-class research and service for the public good. It also centers on the wide-ranging educational and personal growth opportunities offered by two campuses—one in the mountains, one in a dynamic city, each designed for learning, connecting and reflection.

Still another facet of the story: DU’s signature 4D Experience, guided by a robust constellation of mentorship and learning opportunities to connect in-classroom experiences with their out-of-classroom counterparts.

With a refreshed brand, DU will be able to better project its story to future students and prospective partners, no matter their ZIP codes. That, in turn, will ensure that DU will endure to serve future generations. 

Renea Morris, vice chancellor of marketing and communications, notes that the evolved brand grows out of intensive research and market studies. “More than two years ago,” she explains, “we began a top-to-bottom review of how we are perceived in the broader higher ed landscape. This revealed ways to differentiate ourselves. We’ll also lean into our interdisciplinary research more intentionally to elevate our academic strengths.” 

With its strong and familiar imagery, the University’s visual identity system includes an evolution of a mark long cherished by the University community—the interlocking DU. It also represents a move from three marks to one—a transition responding to research indicating that DU needs a single compelling logo that can unite the institution’s programs and campuses. As the University’s new brand guide explains, this revitalized logo speaks to DU’s history while signaling its gaze to the future.

While DU’s visual identity and brand are much more than a logo, Morris says, the logo remains a cornerstone of that identity. The revitalized interlocking letters will allow every campus entity to capitalize on the institution’s brand equity and create unity in touchpoints with consumers.

Shortly after the Board of Trustees unanimously approved the new mark in April, the University shared it with the public. And just after Labor Day, DU launched a comprehensive brand resource website—www.du.edu/brand—empowering the community to incorporate the new brand’s many components. During Discoveries Week
orientation events, first-year and transfer students were presented with t-shirts, bags and other branded swag. Meanwhile, an online store began offering logo-bedecked memorabilia, and the University’s business materials were updated to the new system. Throughout 2023 and beyond, expect to see various components of the brand emerge on everything from DU’s For the Difference advertising campaign to campus wayfinding signs and varsity team uniforms.

The University’s brand refresh draws on the contributions of stakeholders—students, alumni, faculty, staff, deans and program directors—from across the campus and country. DU community members contributed to the process through surveys and focus groups, and by joining a number of working groups examining a wide range of topics, including visual identity and strategic messaging.

In addition, reputation strategy management firm Carnegie, as well as creative agencies HeavyDoesIt and Denver-based ebc-d, partnered with the University’s Division of Marketing & Communications on the brand refresh.

“The University is very grateful to the many people who made this work possible,” Morris says. “All their hard work and enthusiasm support our goal of moving the University forward by rising in the rankings, engaging new markets more meaningfully, building a robust student pipeline and creating an authentic narrative that resonates with all our audiences.”

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