The proper use of color, typography, and photography make up a large portion of what we think of as “imagery.” The remaining, and most important, aspect of “imagery” is not so much of matter of filling in the rest of the cracks, but of developing the thematic concept, the artistic logic, that pulls all aspects together into a single, unified visual idea.
This weaving together of all the photographic, typographic, and written elements into one, cohesive “visual story” is the challenge of the graphic designers. They must tap into all of their artistic and cultural knowledge and employ all of their technical and creative skill to achieve this seamless synthesis.
There are endless possibilities – both in terms of cultural reference points and artistic techniques – graphic artists can bring to bear to create the total “image” appropriate for any communication to any audience.
Without delving too far into all of those possibilities, the following are some common themes related to UM-Flint’s brand promise and the design logic and methodology proven to successfully communicate them visually:
- This is an idea important for all institutions of higher learning. Yet as a university taking bold steps to move beyond its identity, in part, as a “commuter campus,” the notion of “premier” becomes even more essential. If students are going to commit to living and learning here 24/7, they must be assured that their experience will be of the highest caliber.
- UM-Flint is fortunate to be able to claim that we are part of the University of Michigan system. U-M’s reputation for academic excellence, having rich traditions, and graduating true leaders and innovators is the epitome of “premier.”
- Anything that accentuates UM-Flint’s Michigan-ness elevates our prestige and premier-ness as well. In terms of design, this might mean use of traditional academia iconography (perhaps with a UM-Flint twist) such as campus landmarks, ivy, books, etc. Still, the most effective way to visually communicate “Michigan premier-ness” is through the creative use of maize and blue.
- “Urban Center”
- For years, it seemed UM-Flint was deliberately obscuring the fact that this campus is in the heart of downtown Flint. Based on the EMG marketing research, there is nothing to hide and everything to gain from embracing this reality.
- Young people want to have a “city living” experience. Among our chief competitors in the region, UM-Flint is the only public university that can provide this “urban lifestyle” opportunity. In the world of design, “urban” has long been a favorite, if constantly evolving, motif.
- Some of the ways UR has visually communicated “urban” include: cityscape photos (architecture, street scenes, even graffiti), use of high contrast and snap-shot photography, silhouetted objects/people, collages or mash-ups of various visual elements, commitment to reflecting diversity, stylized graphic elements interspersed throughout layout (splashes of color, motion lines, floating words), and emphasis on “action and energy.”
- “New College Town”
- There is no explicit reference to “College Town” in UM-Flint’s brand promise. That’s because it is impossible for UM-Flint alone to deliver on this promise. However, it can be an effective shorthand (both written and visual) for combining the best aspects of the aforementioned ideas of “premier” and “urban” in a single idea that is already popular, understood, and appealing to the audiences we target.
- Transforming Flint from an automotive manufacturing city to a College Town, both in reality and perception, is in itself a challenge. However, this challenge dovetails perfectly into another characteristic more and more young people exhibit: the desire to create a better future.
- From a graphic design standpoint, this “looking to the future” idea allows for more possibility than simply cramming together “premier” and “urban” imagery. It opens the door to explorations into what a “College Town of the Future,” particularly one in Flint, might look like.
- Designs infused with the latest ideas for sustainable communities, urban planning, solar roofs, urban farming, wind turbines, green public transportation, and other positive uses of technology all speak to the idea of “limitless possibility,” and students’ roles in helping to create such realities.