Emma Lawton

Birmingham Business School



Birmingham Business School are part of the well respected University of Birmingham and this association has served them well. But the school was crying out for its own identity to let it visually stand on its own two feet.

The challenge

The school needed an identity which could allow them to stand alone but equally, when required, be allied with the University. The University brand and logo mark would need to sit comfortably alongside anything we created but give staff and students of the school a visual tribe to feel a part of. The existing school brand looked archaic, consisting mainly of photographs of the campus buildings, thin serif type and dark colours. This felt at odds with the reputation of the school and the progressive ideas of its principal. 

The solution

We decided the school logo mark should be simple and text based, allowing it so sit alongside the university mark. The university have two typefaces in their brand, Akcidenz Grotesk (sans serif) and Baskverville (serif). The mark is set in the serif so we felt the school mark should utilise the sans serif as a differentiator. The hierarchy of the 2 marks when locked together is balanced.

By keeping the brand mark simple it gave us the opportunity to create a visually exciting identity to go with it without fear of it jarring with the university brand. A brand strategy piece was created from stakeholder interviews and research and positioned the school as far-sighted and holistic so we began to look at the idea of being far-sighted and what it meant. It interested us that students of varying levels might have a different perspective on the business world and what they can bring to it. To communicate this visually we looked at these perspectives as angles, wide angles for undergraduate students whose perspective is fairly broad when they start out, through to alumni who have a more acute view through specialising in their chosen area.

We looked to imagery of Birmingham and its industry to help us put together a tonal palette that felt brighter, fresher and younger than their existing palette. We then matched these tones with similar colours from the University palettes to tether it back to the mother brand. 

By assigning these colours to an audience type (green – undergraduate, cyan – postgraduate, magenta – MA, mauve – alumni/business world) and combining these with the perspective angles we could start to create a graphic which represented each audience separately as its own ‘facet’ or overlaid together and merging to black to represent the school as a whole.

This then gives the school a visual language to use when approaching a particular audience (using the appropriate facet) or sending communications from the school as a whole (using the facets overlaid as a set) We stayed true to the University brand using Baskerville but in a bolder, slightly provocative way, supported by Akzidenz.

Social media platforms and the school’s section of the university website can be brought in line using a simple addition of the facets and a change to more people centric photography to match the brand style.

The facets are at their most interesting when used for motion graphics, they feel alive and active in their space.

The brand works well in a physical space. Building signage, external advertising and even ceiling graphics could be created to make the brand come alive.

Building signage.

Building signage.

Visualisation of proposed vinyls for glass ceiling of the atrium.

Visualisation of proposed vinyls for glass ceiling of the atrium.

The brand gives the school its own identity and a means for the students and staff to feel part of a tribe that extends beyond that of the university.