What is a brand identity and why is it important?

The UC San Francisco brand defines our reputation. It is how we see ourselves, and how we aspire for others see us.  It demonstrates our credibility, and helps us maintain our position as the leading university exclusively focused on health.

A strong brand identity can help us collectively impact the perception of UCSF.  Every touch point can leave an impression about UCSF, and if we consistently deliver the same messages, we can foster deeper engagement with supporters, partners, and advocates.

A brand identity is also a collection of visual components used to tell the story about an organization. Delivering the UCSF brand consistently will help others become familiar with and want to become a part of the UCSF story.

Why is UCSF updating its brand identity?

In 2013, with the university community’s valued input and support, we developed a brand positioning platform to help us communicate the UCSF story.  This brand positioning highlights the differentiators, driving forces, and key messaging points that give both the UCSF campus community and the outside world a clear reason to believe in UCSF.

Our visual brand identity needs to express our new positioning and embrace our driving forces (innovation, intensity, urgency, public mission) and core principles (impact, boldness, inclusiveness, humanity). It will unify all of the entities that make up UCSF and inspire and inform others to take part in our story.

Consistent representation of UCSF creates a bigger voice and makes a larger impression. An updated brand identity allows entities within UCSF to capitalize on the recognition of UCSF, and demonstrates the collaboration and inclusiveness that is such a part of our culture.

Why is a brand update critical now?

With the updated brand messaging, UCSF has an opportunity to take ownership of its intrinsic reputation and influence within the scientific and medical community, and increase awareness and trust in the brand with the rest of the world.

The timing for increased awareness is critical. UCSF is among the leaders in nearly every field in which it practices, yet every element of its core mission – discovery, education, patient care and our public mission – is facing increasing competition for limited funding. Over the next few years, those institutions that are able to clearly convey their value to funding organizations, supporters, top talent and, in our case, patients will be the ones that not only succeed, but flourish. In this context, there is great value to be gained by speaking with a cohesive voice, and a clear risk in not doing so.

How is this different from the brand positioning project?

The brand positioning project created a framework to helps us talk about UCSF in a concise and consistent way.  It allows us to differentiate ourselves and defines how we make an impact.

Our visual identity reinforces the brand positioning. It ensures that how we look aligns ‘who we are’ with ‘what we do’. It deepens the impact of our brand and ultimately strengthens our ability to increase awareness and build loyalty with our constituents.

A unified look that communicates the full promise of UCSF will help:

  • Demonstrate the power and impact of our institution
  • Stay competitive and appeal to our patients, advocates and supporters
  • Support our efforts to secure funding for research and education
  • Foster pride and engagement in the UCSF community

You can access the brand positioning guide here

What is the process for arriving at a final brand identity design?

UCSF University Relations (UR) is leading the brand identity initiative and has chosen Tolleson Design, a San Francisco-based brand agency and design firm, to capture the University community’s desire to tell a bold, impactful, inclusive and humanistic story.

UR has been working closely with leadership and key stakeholders from throughout the campus and medical center to develop the final identity.  Leadership, a steering committee of communicators, and an advisory group of faculty and staff are continuing to be consulted to ensure our final design meets the needs of all university constituents.

What is a “master brand”?

A “master brand” describes the overarching brand identity of a company or organization.  It is part of an overall branding strategy designed to create a close link between an organization and its entities.  A strong master brand helps maximize impact and awareness of an organization.  The goal of the brand identity project is to elevate UCSF’s master brand and increase the impact of the UCSF brand while allowing entities to show their individuality.

Will I need to give up my current logo?

A flexible brand structure will be developed that supports all UCSF brands.  It will take into consideration entrepreneurial entities with existing logos, and provide guidance on how to associate with the UCSF “master brand” while still maintaining your entity’s personality. The goal of the brand identity project is to tell a collective story about UCSF, rather than a series of fractured stories, thus increasing the impact of the brand.

What will be changing from the current brand identity?

The updated brand identity system will provide a new tool kit and guidelines for implementation. The system will be flexible and easy to use – it will give guidance to help make a bigger impact while still allowing entities to express their individuality.

There may be a new approach to how logos are developed across different levels of the organization. An updated color palette and system of graphic artwork will be available to communicate the brand identity to your audiences.

What is the timeline for the brand identity project?

The new UCSF brand identity will launch in early fall 2014. At that time, revised artwork and visual, editorial and social media guidelines will be available for download. Select branded templates, as well as principles on integrating you group’s brand with the UCSF master brand, will also be available.

How will the brand identity project impact my office?

The new brand identity will give you a framework for expressing the UCSF brand visually.  Print and digital tools will be provided and guidance will be given on the UCSF brand to help you in your daily work.  In addition, you will have an opportunity to attend training to learn about the brand identity and how to apply it to your work.

Will I need to update my website and other branded materials when the new visual identity standards come out?

We won’t require entities to adopt the new system right away. However, once the updated brand identity system is available, we encourage you to embrace it to help tell the UCSF story.  Use your best judgment on when to begin migrating to the refreshed brand identity.  If you’re starting a new project, you can begin using the new assets when they are available in the fall.

The Brand Portal will be the central location for all artwork, guidelines, and tools.  Check back frequently for updates, new tools and templates, and training opportunities to help you embrace the new UCSF brand identity.

Will I have to throw away existing inventory with the old brand identity?

No. If you have business cards, brochures, or other printed materials with the current UCSF visual identity, use your best judgment about when to reprint.  If you’re starting a new project, begin using the new visual assets when they become available.

Can I start using the 150th anniversary design as the new UCSF brand identity?

No. The 150th Anniversary look and feel is designed to showcase the 150th anniversary of UCSF.  The design is intended for use in conjunction with the current UCSF master brand and sub-brands.  The refreshed UCSF brand identity may not use similar color palettes, typography, or other assets as the 150th anniversary design.  For more information on the 150th Anniversary design and usage, see the “Only UCSF” brand identity standards.

If I’m starting a project now before the new brand identity is available, what do I do?

Please continue to build your materials based on the current UCSF visual identity standards and artwork, available on this website.  The brand positioning guide is also available to help you shape your messages.

Check back periodically for updates about the brand identity project.

When will the new brand identity be available? How will I be able to use it and how will I know if I’m interpreting it correctly?

The new brand identity will launch in fall 2014.  At that time, visual identity standards, artwork, and templates will be available on the brand portal for your use.  Training will also be offered for any University constituents who are interested.  If you need additional assistance incorporating the new brand into your materials, you can contact University Relations at identity@ucsf.edu.