These frequently asked questions are intended to help units better understand and implement the Iowa brand. 


Brand is often mistaken to mean the logo or symbol that represents a business or product, but the term is really just shorthand for all the associations, impressions and opinions that people who are interested in something have in relation to that thing. And it doesn’t have to be a business or product. 

Increased competition in higher education coupled with the decline in public funding has forced universities everywhere to better articulate their unique offerings and value propositions in order to differentiate themselves to prospective students and faculty. As a public university we are mission-driven, but to garner the support and resources we need to carry out that mission we must regard our institutional brand as a thing of value worth defining, developing, and promoting.

The Brand Manual provides all the necessary information and resources—including usage policies regarding the visual identity, name, logo, and other visual representations of the university—to foster consistent and effective marketing communications across the university.

Establishing a clear and consistent brand identity is critical for recruiting students, attracting expert faculty and staff, garnering research support, and maintaining strong connections with alumni and donors. Instituting a more cohesive university identity will allow every organization on campus to benefit from each audience’s positive associations with the university, strengthening the position of both the institution and its individual programs simultaneously.

A strong institutional identity can also save significant time and resources. With a strong university brand, units don’t have to invest in the development of their own brand and can focus more on their specific mission within the university.

A research university is a complex organization serving a wide range of undergraduate students, graduate and professional students, and performing research, scholarship and service in many different fields and sectors. Developing the university brand is about defining the institution at large and making the most out of what we all share in common. As the University of Iowa and its colleges and programs seek to compete more than ever for students, faculty, and research support, strengthening the positive associations and connections among all our different offerings will help everyone. Being consistent in how we promote Iowa will make everyone’s messages have more impact.

While Athletics and UI Health Care are both integral parts of the university mission and the university brand, this effort is initially focused on the core academic and administrative units and will not immediately affect Athletics and UI Health Care operations. However, because our long-term goal is to strengthen the positive associations between all the different aspects of the university, we will work toward increased consistency and synergy in terms of marketing and communications.

In 2017, the vice president for external relations empowered a cross-campus stakeholder group to begin a strategic brand development process based on institutional goals, audience research, a comprehensive brand audit, and competitive benchmarking. The process included:

• Brand audit

• Analysis of existing audience research

• Interviews with 45+ students, faculty, staff, and alumni

• Survey of 1,400 faculty and staff at the university of Iowa

• Survey of 3,400 University of Iowa alumni

• Survey of 400 school counselors nationally

• Survey of 250 peer institution faculty

• Competitive analysis of peer institutions

• Focus groups with UI students, faculty, alumni, and Iowa residents

The working group synthesized the findings into a foundational brand strategy and brand architecture, then translated that into a message platform, creative strategy, and visual identity. 

Throughout this process, we have regularly convened a brand development advisory council representing many campus constituencies, including students, faculty, staff, administration, academic leadership, and shared governance, to provide feedback and input. 

Colleges, departments, and central administrative units should plan to adopt the new brand standards in the 2020–2021 academic year. If you are research center or outreach unit, you should plan to adopt the university brand standards for the 2021–2022 academic year.

No. To minimize waste, campus units should use their existing materials before ordering versions that reflect the updated visual identity guidelines. This supports our institutional priority of being responsible stewards of our resources.

There will not be central funding provided to support purchasing updated branded materials or marketing resources for units and programs, but the brand manual website will be continually updated with digital assets and templates to make those changes as efficient as possible. Marketing resources like print collateral, exhibition materials, and branded swag can be updated to the new brand standards at your discretion once your current supplies are exhausted or materials are no longer functional and require replacement.

Per the University Brand Policy, university units should not create unique logos but follow the guidelines of this website to maintain a clear visual association with the university.

Distinct unit-level identities and differentiators are best highlighted in content and messaging, not a logo that differs from these guidelines. 

Yes. Per the university brand policy, these brand guidelines apply to all uses of the university visual identity and marks across all forms of communication executed by any unit of the university, including web sites. Visual brand standards for the web are provided for through the UI Design System.

To ensure the connection to Iowa is clear for the audiences they serve, Registered Student Organizations that leverage the Iowa brand must follow guidelines based on the registration tier assigned by the Office of the Dean of Students. 

See Student Organizations

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