Norwich University of the Arts has unveiled a new brand identity that uses references to craft to reflect the institution’s values and ongoing story.
Designed by North, working with an internal steering group at the university led by vice chancellor Simon Oldfield-Kerr and brand strategists Winster March, the new identity was built around the idea of creative exchange.
North Design was appointed in October 2022 following an invitation to pitch for the work, explains studio founding partner Sean Perkins, who oversaw the project.
Unusually several team members had personal experience of the university, with Perkins having been a visiting lecturer at the institution for ten years, and four Norwich graduates on the team including project leads Jonathan Leonard and Sophia Brandt, he adds.
Building on this experience, the studio also embarked on a collaborative process with the university and its community throughout, explains Brandt.
The team sent out a community survey to gather anonymous input for the research/audit phase, before holding “multiple town halls to walk students and staff through the identity process at each stage”, which “helped establish a discourse and deeper relationships”, she adds.
At the centre of the identity is a typeface called Exchange, which was designed by Leonard. It intends to express the university’s strategy and its emphasis on “research and experimentation”, he says, and is built of “12 textural expressions which embody a fusion of traditional and digital art forms”, to represent breadth of crafts and disciplines taught at the university.
The font’s characters are built on a modular grid using a “consistent pixel scale”, says Leonard.
“By overlapping the font and switching textures, we can create a ‘type as image’ approach, which is endlessly adaptable and unique to Norwich”, he says.
The logo itself is created with the font, bringing multiple font textures together to “encapsulate the expression of the wider identity”, he adds.
Creative coding is used to create patterns and animations for different applications of the identity, adds Brandt. “We can’t wait to see some of the large typographic textures throughout the campus”.
Similarly, the modular framework also lends itself to plurality and is built to showcase a variety of student work.
Another aspect of the identity is influenced by the university’s own 178-year-old history, which it says is intertwined with that of the city’s creative industry.
One story that is referenced is that of Protestant master weavers from the Low Countries, who emigrated to Norwich in the 16th century to flee persecution at home. This inspired the core vibrant yellow of the identity, representing the yellow canaries which accompanied the weavers.
This is contrasted with black, white and grey, throughout, with patterns also generated in a suite of secondary colours.
According to the university, the tone of voice looks to ask “big questions”, to represent the “critical role” of creativity, and the individuals that the university looks to “nurture”, who “challenge norms, shape the world, and contribute to a more equitable, just and sustainable society, says Ofield-Kerr.
The university’s previous identity was implemented in 2009 by Studio Sutherl&, and while it “served us well”, the university commented, the institution had changed a great deal in the intervening years.
Perkins adds that the new identity looked to bring the institution “into the 21st century”, and that the identity framework built “provides structure while also creating space for expression and shared ideas and embodies “the insatiable curiosity that drives conversations and challenges conventional thinking”.
The identity will be gradually implemented, first seen on recruitment materials, social media accounts and a redesigned website, with later phases seeing the identity applied to all campus signage.
All images: North Design/Norwich University of the Arts