Brand Equals Vision

Seattle Pacific University’s brand is its vision for engaging the culture and changing the world. The brand is the promise SPU makes to those it serves. An effective SPU branding effort must build awareness of the vision and demonstrate the relevance of the vision to our audiences.

1. Foundational Principles of Branding at SPU

1.1 Branding at SPU Is Vision Work. To accomplish its vision for engaging the culture and changing the world, SPU will ensure that all of its communications convey that vision, both in words and visuals.

1.2 Branding at SPU Requires Continuity and Consistency. To brand SPU successfully requires continuity and consistency of message and visual identity across the University’s communications. Each communication will be clearly identifiable as originating from SPU, and each communication will convey the vision.

1.3 Branding at SPU Requires Segmentation. SPU’s branding effort will also be flexible enough in message and design to target specific audiences and market specific programs effectively, all the while reflecting the vision.

1.4 Branding at SPU Requires Excellence. Since audiences equate the quality of SPU’s communications with the quality of its vision, communications will be excellent in every way.

1.5 Branding at SPU Requires Inter-Departmental Coordination. All SPU communications will be coordinated and leveraged to achieve the maximum impact. This means that no unit can “opt out” of the University’s brand.

2. SPU Brand Portfolio

2.1 Brand Vision Language: Engaging the Culture, Changing the World

2.2 Brand Mission Statement: Seattle Pacific University is a Christian university fully committed to engaging the culture and changing the world by graduating people of competence and character, becoming people of wisdom, and modeling grace-filled community.

2.3 Brand Signatures: Seattle Pacific University will:

know and understand what’s going on in the world;

2.3.2 embrace the Christian story, becoming biblically and theologically educated;

2.3.3 master the tools of rigorous learning, becoming a vibrant intellectual community;

2.3.4 model grace-filled community and practice radical reconciliation; and

2.3.5 graduate people of competence and character equipped to change the world.

2.4 Brand Rationale: SPU’s vision is distinctive and profoundly relevant at a time in history when the American academy has lost sight of its original purpose: to serve the community and the world. There is a ready market niche for a premier national Christian university focused on cultural engagement and world change.

2.5 Brand Boilerplate Description: Founded in 1891, Seattle Pacific University is a premier Christian university that equips people to engage the culture and change the world. Its comprehensive academic program serves nearly 3,900 undergraduate and graduate students. Known for both their competence and character, SPU graduates are bringing about positive change in communities around the globe.

2.6 Brand-Defining Words or Phrases: Some of these include: active, biblically and theologically educated, bold, character-building, Christian, competence and character, comprehensive, courageous, engaged, embracing, engaging, fearless, global reach, grace-filled community, innovative, national, open, personal, positive, premier, reconciliation, relevant, urban, vibrant learning community, willing to take risks, wisdom, world-changing. (Portions of our vision language have been trademarked.)

2.7 Brand Key Audiences: students; faculty; staff; alumni; parents; prospective students and families; donors; prospective donors (new generation of partners); pastors and church leaders; high school counselors; higher education community; greater-Seattle community; national Christian community; local, state, and federal government leaders.

3. The Role of University Relations and University Communications in Branding at SPU

Since everything Seattle Pacific University does – intentionally or otherwise – contributes to the perceptions of SPU in the mind of the public, branding is a collective enterprise. It is the responsibility of the Office of University Relations, however, to guide the University in championing, building, strengthening, and stewarding its brand.

As a unit of University Relations, the Office of University Communications is specifically charged with helping to build, strengthen, and steward SPU’s brand through vision-centered print and electronic publishing, advertising, media relations, and performing group outreach. This involves the delivery of clear, consistent, and strategic messages to targeted external and internal audiences; ensuring the coherence and integrity of the institution’s visual image; and acting as “gatekeeper” for all strategic university communications.

4. University Communications as Gatekeeper

4.1 Oversight of Strategic Communications. To make the best use of resources, University Communications will focus the majority of its resources on projects related to all-institutional positioning and key academic program marketing and support.

4.2 Facilitation of Other Communications. For most other campus projects, University Communications will provide the services of a communications specialist and coordination with external design vendors.

4.3 UC-Client Partnership. University Communications will assign a communications specialist and designer to work with each client. The communications specialist, designer, and client will form a collaborative team responsible for overseeing the project and ensuring its success. Their individual roles are as follows:

4.3.1 Communications Specialist. The UC communications specialist acts as project manager and is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the project meets SPU editorial and visual branding standards. Only in the case of an irreconcilable difference between the UC communications specialist and the client, the UC director will make the call.

4.3.2 Designer. If the designer is a UC designer, he or she shares the responsibility for ensuring the project meets SPU visual branding standards. Only in the case of an irreconcilable difference between the UC communications specialist and UC designer, the UC director will make the call.

4.3.3 Client. UC’s approach is a collaborative one. The client’s responsibility is to provide a clear statement of objectives, audience, content, and budget, as well as any creative ideas he or she may have regarding the project. While UC will work hard to accommodate the client’s ideas and preferences, if a judgment call is required, UC will make the decision.

4.4 A Plan Is Required. University Communications will only produce projects that have a clearly defined purpose and are part of a strategic communication plan. The client should be able to describe the purpose, audience, usage, and desired results of the project. The client and the communications specialist will work together to decide which communication medium is appropriate.

4.5 Integration of Strategic Communications. University Communications will employ a mix of print communications, electronic communications, advertising, media, and performing groups to achieve an integrated branding effort. UC will also work to integrate messages and visuals across the spectrum of strategic communications to gain more impact for money spent.

4.6 Sub-Brands. A “sub-brand” is a brand (tagline, logo, etc.) created within the larger institutional brand to differentiate the unique attributes of a department, school, or other unit. Strong sub-branding for individual units is only appropriate in specific instances approved by the VPAUR and should always be subordinate and complementary to the SPU brand. “Sub-branding” is not to be confused with segmented, short-term advertising campaigns for specific programs or products, which is appropriate within the larger institutional brand. (Note: Because of the nature of collegiate sports and the existence of a well-established sub-brand, the Athletic Department currently operates separately from University Communications. UC will work to establish more connections between the two departments and agreement on branding protocols.)

5. Editorial Branding Standards

5.1 Messages. University Communications will work with campus clients to deliver messages that are vision-centered, simple, clear, and consistent. Messages will draw heavily on the Brand Portfolio and 2014: A Blueprint for Excellence for vision content and nuance, and on client-generated information for program-specific messages.

5.2 Targeting. University Communications will also work with campus clients to tailor messages toward the specific audience and communication vehicle. This involves “translating” the vision in a way that is appropriate, memorable, and relevant for the targeted audience.

5.3 Editorial Voice. To most authentically and convincingly convey the vision, University Communications will use an overall editorial voice that is honest, intelligent, informed, professional, journalistic, uncluttered, substantive, respectful, and engaging. Hyperbole and overuse of adjectives will be avoided, and there is no room for PRish, salesy language.

5.4 Accuracy. University Communications will strive for 100 percent accuracy – in terms of fact as well as grammar/ spelling – in all of its communications. UC sees this as a critical way in which brand is built and credibility established with audiences.

5.5 Story. Whenever possible, University Communications will deliver messages in the form of story, which has proven to be the most powerful way of communicating SPU’s vision. Stories will always be selected and presented within the context of SPU’s vision for engaging the culture and changing the world.

5.6 Creativity. University Communications will aspire to a high level of creativity in expressing the vision editorially, because “engaging the culture and changing the world” is itself a creative enterprise, and because fresh approaches are critical to capturing and sustaining the attention of our audiences.

5.7 Style. University Communications will use the following resources to guide its editorial style and ensure consistency across communications:

Associated Press Style Guide.

SPU Editorial Style Guide.

Wired Style.

Webster’s New World College Dictionary, Fourth Edition.

5.8 Research. Wherever possible, University Communications will use research in developing its messages for specific audiences. Sources for this research will vary, but include IDM, client research, contracted research firms, and other professional contacts such as conferences, reading, and personal interviews.

6. Visual Branding Standards

6.1 The Vision in Design. University Communications will convey the vision visually through its unique design style; its commitment to excellence in design; its use of images that depict students, faculty, staff, and alumni engaging the culture and changing the world; and its consistent and strategic use of the signature logo (logo and vision language).

6.2 Design Style. To most powerfully and memorably communicate the vision, University Communications will use a design style that is clean, sophisticated, current, active, and professional. Where budget allows, it will make use of excellent photography, illustration, and image editing made possible by state-of-the-art technology. The UC design style itself does not necessarily require high-priced materials and printing, however. It will be implemented across communications, staying within even limited budgets.

6.3 Graphics Standards Manual. University Communications and its outside vendors will use the SPU Graphics Standards Manual to guide design work and ensure continuity across communications. Specific standards are detailed within the manual.

6.4 Visual Continuity. Since SPU’s constituent groups are highly diverse, one set of visual standards cannot make a meaningful connection with all audiences. University Communications will seek to establish a degree of visual continuity across all communications while preserving market segmentation as well as design creativity and innovation. Specifically, University Communications will follow a tiered approach to visual continuity. The three tiers are as follows:

6.4.1 Design Tier One. At the highest level, there is a system of visual connections that every publication will share. This will be simple, but noticeable, and will include the following:

A set color palette for the torch symbol, logo (torch and Seattle Pacific University), and signature logo (torch, Seattle Pacific University, and vision language).

Placement of the torch symbol on the cover of every publication.

Placement of the signature logo on the mailing panel of every publication.

A selection of eight possible fonts (four serif and four sans-serif) in a range of type sizes for the body copy and headlines in the majority of publications (exceptions will be rare and approved by UC designers).

6.4.2 Design Tier Two. The next tier is organized into audience-specific segments. In addition to the standards that apply to the top tier, visual elements such as size, shape, paper stock, typography, color, and imagery are developed and used consistently within each segment. Segment-specific standards will be selected based on an analysis of how different visual elements appeal to different audiences.

6.4.3 Design Tier Three. The third tier organizes each second-tier segment into sub-segments. At this level, design variations from the second tier would be minimal.

6.4.4 Event-Specific Communications. In certain circumstances, stand-alone design packages will be developed for special events or initiatives, such as high ceremonies, the Benaroya Christmas Concert, or The John Perkins Center. These will follow Design Tier One standards, but would not be considered part of a particular audience-specific segment as described in 6.4.2.

6.5 Creativity and Innovation. University Communications will aspire to a high level of creativity and innovation in expressing the vision visually, because “engaging the culture and changing the world” is itself a creative enterprise, and because fresh approaches are critical to capturing and sustaining the attention of our audiences.

6.6 Logo Usage. University Communications will use the torch symbol, logo, and signature logo consistently and cannot accept any misuse of the torch symbol, logo, and signature logo by other parties. UC will clearly identify the accepted logo variations and the requirements for different logo applications. UC has worked with UR to trademark the torch symbol, logo, signature logo, and vision language.

6.7 Photography. Since good photography often differentiates good design from bad design, University Communications will seek out and use only the finest photography. Where budget will not allow for excellent photography, UC will use alternative design elements rather than use mediocre or bad photography.

6.8 University Colors. The university colors and a limited number of complementary colors will be used in the following categories of printed materials:

Identity package.
Certificates and official documents.
High ceremonies.


Copyright© 2018 Seattle Pacific University.
Web Content Disclaimer.
General Information: (206) 281-2000
3307 Third Avenue West, Seattle, WA 98119-1997, U.S.A.