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Case Study: How NMU’s Centralized Photo Library Supported the University’s Visual Rebrand

Northern Michigan University rebrands with new logos and strong visual communications strategy. Photo courtesy of NMU. The Libris Blog.

If you take a look at Northern Michigan University’s website, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, one thing is clear: this school is focusing on visual storytelling.

The university regularly shares compelling photos and videos across social platforms, and its website is packed with visual content. Just glancing at the homepage lets you see what it’s like to take classes, learn job skills and explore Marquette’s incredible landscape as a student at NMU. This video is the first thing prospective students, current students, parents and alumni see when they visit the site:

Josh LeClair produces photos and videos for NMU Marketing & Communications. He was brought on in a recent wave of marketing hires – hence, the push to focus on visual communications. Josh manages NMU’s visual media library, which is hosted on Libris.

“We use it every single day,” says Josh.

Because so many people need access to NMU’s visual assets (from designers to department heads), it’s helpful to have a centralized, cloud-based platform. As soon as Josh uploads a new set of photos, people who have permission to view the library can access them on their own. Josh simply sends them an email to let them know the new batch is available, and doesn’t have to deal with the tedious process of fulfilling image requests.

The accessible visual media library lets Josh easily deliver event photos, staff portraits and, most recently, visual assets for the school’s rebranding effort.

“Especially with this rebrand and particularly with the new logo website, we have all of these resources, all of these photos just waiting to be used,” says Josh. “Our art director can just log on and see all the images easily, much more easily than in Finder.”

NMU’s rebrand highlights why the school prioritizes visual storytelling and how they power visual communications behind the scenes. Let’s take a closer look at how the NMU team created a new visual identity and rolled it out to the community through photos and videos.

A snapshot of NMU's anchor page for the new logo launch.

A snapshot of NMU’s launch page for the new logo.

Creating a New Visual Identity

The goals of NMU’s brand refresh were to align the school’s visual markers with its values, reflect its cutting-edge academics and modern athletics, and create a visual identity that would resonate with prospective students.

The university’s old academic logo reflected the beauty of its campus, but not its focus on academics. The new logo incorporates the “Torch of Knowledge” derived from the university’s seal, as well as a sun and compass to emphasize its location.

Old Logo vs. New Logo

Old Logo vs. New Logo

The old athletics logo was difficult to screenprint and embroider, and lacked unique visual cues pointing to NMU’s brand. The new logo updates the Wildcat mascot with a modern look, incorporates the school colors and has a “wordmark” unique to NMU athletics.

Old Athletics Logo vs. New Athletics Logo

Old Athletics Logo vs. New Athletics Logo

The new logos ensure that the visual markers that represent NMU are in line with what the school has to offer, which is crucial in an increasingly visual landscape.

“Students attending the university today are more visually sophisticated due to the multitude of media they are exposed to on a daily basis,” says Daric Christian, Dean of the School of Art & Design, on the launch page for the logos. “The university’s visual identity and the perception it conveys are important to the prospective student; having an outdated visual identity could lead students to perceive that our programs and technology are outdated.”

Sharing the New Brand through Visual Storytelling

Since this is a visual refresh, it’s only fitting that the NMU team shared the new logos and the story behind them through visual content.

They teased the announcement with a preview photo…

New look, same great university.

Posted by Northern Michigan University on Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Then, they announced the logos with this video, which covers the motivation behind the rebrand, the research and design process and a walkthrough of the new logos. The video generates conversation on social media, and drives people to the highly visual anchor page for the logo launch.

“We really wanted to try to cover our bases as far as putting out as much information as possible,” says Josh.

He and his team knew that a video would be the right way to spread the word about the new logos because video drives user engagement on the university’s social media and website. Video also helps the university reach its younger audience of students and prospective students.

“If you present a video that’s catchy and interesting to them, they’re actually going to pay attention,” says Josh.

So far, the launch video has more than 143,000 views and has reached 431,000 people, ranking as NMU’s highest reaching video yet. And most importantly, it’s sparking a conversation among students, alumni, parents and community members.

“You get people who are really excited to show the love for NMU and just talk about where the university as a whole,” says Josh, commenting on the community’s feedback about the new logo. “And be it good or bad, there’s a lot of people who want their voice heard.”

The Takeaway

Just as every university has its own unique personality and culture, every university should have unique visual markers that communicate that personality and culture. Your school’s logos, graphics, photos and videos should work together to tell a cohesive story.

With this visual refresh, the NMU team has ensured that the visual content they share is on-brand and in line with the school’s values. The university is building a strong visual identity that clearly communicates what NMU has to offer.

Looking to grab some sweet gear featuring the new NMU logos? Head over to 'Cats Corner in the Superior Dome or the University Bookstore in the University Center today.

Posted by Northern Michigan University on Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A strong visual identity can help your university improve recognizability, attract prospective students (think about all the time teenagers spend on Instagram), encourage students to share the school’s content, and build pride in your school. Arm your communications team with a robust visual media library and well-designed logos, and your university will reap the benefits.

Cover photo by Josh LeClair, courtesy of NMU.

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    […] Read more about a photo library’s effect on visual storytelling through our case studies, like How NMU’s Centralized Photo Library Supported the University’s Visual Rebrand. […]

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