Signing off and starting fresh: Reintroducing the KU signature

For over a year, the design team at KU Marketing Communications has been hard at work rethinking, retooling, and reconstructing all aspects of the university signature.

This essential element of our identity system appears simple, but a variety of considerations weigh on the newest iteration’s design, rules of use, and administration.

In this post, we’ll explain the rationale behind the changes to this significant KU emblem, as well as our plans for deployment and implementation.


Successfully identified

Under graphic identity standards introduced in 2008, an ecosystem of signatures was developed by KU Marketing Communications, then known as University Relations.

First created for a handful of highly visible units, signatures eventually rolled out to over 400 KU entities — many of them created to satisfy signature requirements for university web pages.

Another step forward for the brand occurred in 2017. With the introduction of Our Chant Rises, KU’s first-ever brand platform, signatures became a smaller part of the full visual expression of the brand, but their use was still seen by many as essential to a “branded” look and feel.


Newer, better, fewer

With the wide adoption of Our Chant Rises across campus and with key partners, the time is right for a new approach to signature creation and use.

We’ve returned to the originally established approval process for unit signatures, and reduced the number of signatures in circulation.

Under these revived parameters, KU Marketing Communications can better support KU’s system of signatures, and campus communicators can explore designs that use those signatures appropriately, and not exclusively feature or heavily rely on a unique signature.

Additionally, all remaining signatures now conform to KU’s 2017 brand design guidelines. Gotham replaces Gill Sans, and kerning has been improved on the notoriously difficult Trajan.


Rollout and buy-in

The design team has updated guidelines for signature usage on our brand site and in this document (pdf), addressing issues of color, clear space, modification, media, and more.

Eligible units can access updated signature files in this online collection. As old collateral depletes and new projects develop, units should strive for comprehensive changeover by fall of 2020.

A unique opportunity

For those units whose signatures are no longer authorized, we have created an illustrated guide (pdf) for effectively branded visuals. We hope this minimizes confusion and frees communicators to create within Our Chant Rises.

Of course, the primary signature will still be available for all KU entities to download from the KU brand site. Our new guidelines describe their appropriate use. (Units with phased-out signatures should meet the same changeover deadline of fall 2020.)

Our thanks

We want to express our appreciation to every campus partner who has assisted with this update, and to those who’ve faithfully used signatures over the last decade.

We recognize the significance that hundreds of offices and divisions place on an affiliation with the university’s name. With these changes, we seek to strengthen that connection.

Like all brands, KU’s is intangible. But a clearly defined, responsibly managed visual identity concretely reinforces and elevates the brand — a worthwhile effort we thank you for assisting.