Birmingham University steps up brand rejuvenation

The University of Birmingham is holding a pitch this month to select a consultancy to revamp wayfinding and signage across its 280ha estate.

The appointment comes ahead of a two-year programme to implement the University’s redevelopment masterplan. It will be the first ‘comprehensive’ redesign of the institution since it was founded more than 100 years ago, according to a spokeswoman. The masterplan will overhaul lighting schemes, landscaping and the way in which buildings are used throughout the university.

Further design appointments will be made as the programme evolves, and the aim is to create a ‘multi-agency solution’ to work across the masterplan, says the spokeswoman. Ian Barker, director of estates at the University, is overseeing the project.

Signage throughout the university has developed in an ‘ad hoc’ fashion and the planned appointment of a dedicated design consultancy marks the first assessment of the overall wayfinding system. The solution, to be implemented by June 2006, will be applied across the University’s entire ‘physical infrastructure’, including campuses in Edgbaston, Selly Oak Coniston, Ironbridge and Stratford-upon-Avon.

Last year Wolff Olins was appointed to revise the University of Birmingham’s brand identity, in a bid to reinvigorate an outdated public perception of the institution (DW 4 November 2004). The group was appointed to the rebrand project following a pitch held last January. The identity it conceived is based on the brand proposition ‘provoke’.

The redesigned signage will reflect the ‘spirit’ of this new identity but will also be ‘relatively brand neutral’ so as to be ‘timeless’, explains the spokeswoman. ‘We need motorway signage to drive traffic across the University, rather than it all being about the new logo and identity. The signage will be more in tune with the University’s brand – it’s about communicating better.’

The University of Birmingham is one of many universities electing to up the ante and embark on more design-led projects, as competition to attract students increases ahead of the introduction of top-up fees in the next academic year.

‘As fee paying is introduced, universities are having to become more business-minded in general,’ adds the spokeswoman.

Recent university identity projects

• Thames Valley University, ‘radical’ rebranding, Lloyd Northover (DW 2 June)

• University of Sheffield, redeveloping brand in-house led by Robert Hurst, design manager (DW 28 August 2004)

• University of Manchester, brand architecture completed, Lloyd Northover (DW 28 October 2004)

• University of Sussex, new brand identity ‘US’ by Blast (DW 11 March 2004)

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