The University of Oregon brand is not something that marketers or communicators made. It's something the university itself made—the students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community—over the course of its entire history.
Our brand is the education we provide, the research we conduct, the discoveries we make, the environment we inhabit, and the community we belong to. It's the thousands of alumni whose legacy we continue, and the thousands of lives this amazing place has transformed. It's our mission. It's how we treat each other. It's how we interact with our community, and the world. As communicators, we don't create the UO brand. We share it. We articulate it. When we're at our best, the communications we produce convey the UO brand accurately, honestly, and authentically to our various audiences.
The words we use, the way we visually tell our story to the world, our iconic logos and approved typefaces—all these elements combine to help communicate our brand. Each is an integral part of our identity. Our voice. Our signature. Even, in a sense, an extension of the physical university. So it’s vitally important that we use them carefully and treat them with respect.
Working together, we can create bold, engaging communications, build strong bonds with our audiences, and protect our vision and voice well into the future. The guidelines you'll find on this site are designed to help you create strong, consistent materials that collectively tell the University of Oregon story in a way that's original, memorable, and most importantly, true to who we are. Used consistently, they will help maintain graphic and message continuity, protect our marks and logos, and help us communicate clearly across a wide range of media.
In order to develop a brand that’s able to flex for different audiences, we had to first define the general tone of our messaging. A baseline personality, if you will. So we started by identifying several qualities that are or should consistently be used as descriptors for our brand. Six words were selected to describe these qualities, based on what dozens of students, faculty and staff members, and alumni told us about the University of Oregon.
No, this character quality doesn’t mean we should ever be disrespectful or disparaging. It reminds us that our brand should not shrink from being bold, unexpected, and fearless about challenging convention. We can dial this quality up to create messaging for prospective and current students. Or dial it down for peer, donor, and key opinion leader audiences.
We never take our eyes off the horizon. We exist as a university to help push humanity forward. We collaborate, innovate and find better ways. This word reminds us to embrace our research roots and our can-do spirit. We can dial this trait up to focus on where we’re going and what’s possible. Or dial it down to focus more on what we’ve done or what we’re currently doing to find better ways.
Simply put, there is nothing that we don’t do well here. Which is uncommon. And something that we must be comfortable touting. Usually with the help of confident, straightforward messaging and unsubtle design. We never want to come across as arrogant or conceited, but we should absolutely dial this quality up to communicate our achievements and UO pride. We also see this as “Extra Ordinary.” As in more than the usual. There’s more here than what you expect.
There’s just something about this place. The energy on campus is palpable. The electricity in the air at UO events is astonishing. It comes from everywhere. From the lush, green environment that enrobes the university. From the town that supports us. And from the students, faculty and staff members, and friends who fuel our positivity and innovation. And everyone who runs and bikes and hikes and skis and plays hard. “Alive” is about our desire to do.
It’s about nature. But it’s not just about nature. It’s about human nature and the way we interact with each other. You can be doing something well and be intense and in someone’s face, or you can be relaxed and comfortable in who you are. That's us. Approachable. That’s how the UO carries itself. The more this lever is dialed up, the more casual the tone.
The university has a long history of being inclusive. From the Free Speech Plaza to the welcoming mentality applied to everyone, we pride ourselves in welcoming all kinds. But it’s more than that. We don’t merely welcome them, we encourage them to collaborate and support each other as they discover who they are. A physics student who wants to also major in cinema studies? Sure. Come on in.
The brand tone is designed to flex for different audiences. For example, when speaking to current and prospective students, turn up “irreverence” and “alive.” However, when creating messaging for a peer or donor audience, turn down those elements and turn up the volume on “progressive” and “extraordinary.” Here are some examples of how you might mix the tone for various audiences.
- Too abrasive, too soft, we lose our audience.
- Uninteresting, out of character, we lose our audience.
- Inconsistent, confusing, guess what happens, we lose our audience.
We need to understand the voice for our brand.
The brand voice that was developed for the UO is smart, confident, informed, and approachable. Like our students, our faculty, our community. It's “intelligently informal.” A quick test to see if you’re on the right track tonally is to ask yourself, “Does it sound intelligently informal?” And does it compel you to want read on?
Headlines must be interesting enough to get someone’s attention—and often a commitment to reading more. If a headline doesn’t do that, nothing that comes after it matters. Not the compelling story, the interesting statistics, the ground-breaking news, nothing.
Frequently, what bogs down a good headline is trying to fit too much into it. The best headlines are usually short, sweet, and convey a single key idea. And while they can contain multiple ingredients—irony, humor, drama, truth—most of the time, they have only one clever twist that draws readers in and leaves them wanting to know more.
But what about UO headlines? Let’s look at a few.
For a “sense of place” or location
There’s something about this place. Everything.
For UO research
We search. We re-search. We research.
For Oregon Law
Notable clients include: land, air, water, food.
See how they seem to come from the same place? The same voice? They get in your head. Make you want to read on. This is what good headlines do. Do this.
This is where we can really let our “intelligently informal” brand voice sing. Where we can adjust tone and style to speak to very specific audiences and take deep dives into relevant content and tell stories. However, this is where we're likely to lose someone, too, unless we’re vigilant about bringing our tone words to life. Irreverent, progressive, extraordinary, alive, natural, and inclusive. And not just one at a time—use many or all of them at once.
How you use these tone characteristics will likely vary greatly from piece to piece. Think of them each as a level on an equalizer. You can increase or decrease values depending on the context or audience. For example, if you’re writing a viewbook piece about the benefit of exploring options, you might try turning up the volume on amusing (irreverent), active (alive) and welcoming (inclusive). Here's an example:
Expand the horizons of your horizons.
Do something unexpected. Go off path. Blend business, journalism, and Japanese. Mix chemistry, athletics, and dance. Combine politics with Mickey Mouse and psychology with Second Life. This is your chance to experiment. We’re an AAU research university. Discovery is in our blood. Cross-pollination moves us forward. This is where academic evolution happens daily.
Just ask Professor Ben Saunders. He specializes in the literature of the English Renaissance. But unable to deny his love for British and American comics, he’s found a way to incorporate them right into the curriculum. Unusual? Absolutely. Unconventional? You bet. Oregon? Without question.
And then there’s undergrad Jordyn Roach. She’s double-majoring in cinema studies
and physics. Interested in the science behind optics and the art of film, she didn’t
settle for one or the other – she chose both. And it’s working for her. She’s already
winning awards and scholarships for her short films. That’s what happens when
you go big and mix things up.
Make no mistake, this place will change you.
But if you want to change us as well, we’re open to suggestions.