The previous visual identity for Centre for Academic English (CfAE) had been in place for nine years, so there was a collective desire for a refresh to be implemented across all design touchpoints. Our challenge was complex for multiple reasons.
The core element of CfAE’s identity was a series of cogs. These represented both the neural process of thinking and the department being a cog in the machine of learning – it was well liked but felt a little tired. As with any refresh process, although there is a desire for change there can be an understandable nervousness around starting again. So the challenge was, how could we reinvent the wheel without reinventing the wheel?
We also had to consider how we could better spread the word across the University’s multiple campuses to attract a greater uptake of CfAE’s services, to enable more students and staff to benefit from the very beginning of their time at Imperial. In addition, any change in design needed to sit within the Imperial umbrella identity whilst remaining distinct.
We kicked off the project with a visit to CfAE, which is situated at the South Kensington Campus of Imperial. Through a series of conversations and workshops with key stakeholders we created a series of personas and defined the brief. This in turn, began to present opportunities and potential design directions.
The creative team worked together and presented two unique concepts to the client. Both were liked, however, it was our approach that offered an evolution of the cogs which was the unanimous choice.
Our solution expanded the palette and simplified the cogs by transforming them into rings. This allowed for a broader scope of applications whilst always remaining part of the wider visual identity.
The rings’ abstract qualities also gave us an opportunity to be playful – as well as cogs they can represent people, pathways, speech bubbles and much more.
The simplicity of the circle opened the door for further iterations in diagrams and a series of distinctive icons – the possibilities are endless.
Spreading the word
Another key aspect of the new vision was the use of language. Given that CfAE is essentially about words, we were keen to make this a key element of any new direction. The driving force behind the new direction was a new academic year and the ever important Freshers Week, with merchandise handed out to new students. This gave us the perfect opportunity to use humorous wordplay linked to the object; be it a bag, bottle opener or cutlery. Making each item a little more memorable and spreading CfAE’s message across the campus.
Print or digital
Yet, that’s not quite it. In addition to the above, we also designed a series of digital posters and banners for Fresher events. Meaning wherever you are on campus, CfAE will be difficult to miss.