Identity Development Process

Why undertake a repositioning process?

The first reason is to facilitate the identification and verification of the core characteristics and attributes of the university and to align the functions of the various components of the institution with those characteristics and attributes. The second goal is to strengthen the reputation and visibility of Western. Through an appropriate approach to integrated marketing, this enhanced image can translate into many benefits for Western, including in the areas of enrollment, fund-raising, partnership with the Legislature and even the ability of our graduates to get jobs.

Who oversaw the institutional identification process?

The process has been ongoing since the arrival of President Bruce Shepard in 2008. It began with listening sessions with every member of the campus community and was followed with the 100 Community Conversations held with stakeholders across the region, state and country. Western then partnered with Lyric, Inc., a top Seattle commercial branding firm, to help research and re-imagine Western's identity. Western brought together a 15-member project leadership team composed of students, faculty, staff and off-campus representatives. After months of interviews, surveys and more, Lyric recommended an image that emphasizes our strengths: Inviting, Engaging, Adventurous, Collaborative and Distinctive. The new tagline, “Active Minds Changing Lives,” and the new university logo were influenced by what we learned through research.

How was the new Western logo developed?

The creation of a new logo followed a process led by Lyric in which research, analysis, focus group information and Western's characteristics were reviewed and logo concepts were developed. A thorough review led to the creation of parameters that guided designers in their work. Staff then reviewed numerous possible concepts, which also were shared with larger groups of students, faculty and staff as well as alumni and community members. A logo design by Western student Branson Anderson ultimately was selected as showing the most complete representation of Western’s identity and its coveted sense of place.

What does the logo represent?

During research, Western’s strong sense of place—its beautiful location between the Cascades and Bellingham Bay—was a primary quality about Western that inspired prospective students and others. As such, the abstract logo design captures Western’s unique sense of place: the soaring beauty of Mount Baker and the waves of nearby waters.

What does the tagline represent?

A tagline is a shorthand description of our positioning in terms that are accessible to our primary audience—students. The new tagline, “Active Minds Changing Lives,” is shorthand for Western’s positioning statement: “For ambitious, open-minded learners, Western is the premier undergraduate-centered university that fosters a dynamic, collaborative environment, where students fully engage, reveling in the freedom to develop their intellectual potential and achieve their personal goals.”

Who can use the logo?

Only Western, faculty, staff and authorized student organizations and vendors may use the Western logo. All others must receive prior permission for use of the Western logo from the Office of University Communications at (360) 650-3350. Logo usage applies to any and all printed, digital, promotional, display, clothing, household item and video communications. The new Western Brand Guide will provide direction for appropriate use of Western’s design elements and marketing tools. Download the Brand Guide at

How do we get permission to use the logo?

To get permission to use the Western logo, please contact John Thompson, manager of university marketing in the Office of University Communications, at (360) 650-3350.

Can we keep using 'Engaged Excellence,' our old tagline?

No. Please make the switch to “Active Minds Changing Lives” as soon as is feasible. When colleges, departments, programs and business do not use the “Active Minds Changing Lives” tagline, they are not permitted to use any other tagline in its place.

Does the new logo replace the former logo?

Yes, it is being used in place of—not in conjunction with—the previous Western logo, which featured the front doors of Old Main.

Do we need to throw out our old stationery and letterhead and print new versions?

No. Quite the opposite; we ask that you use all current stock first, to prevent waste. However, colleges, departments and offices should begin transitioning to reflect the new graphics as soon as is feasible.

Who can help our office with this transition?

Western’s Office of University Communications will oversee rollout of the repositioned identity. University Communications also has graphic designers available to assist university offices in making the transition for their print or online projects. To schedule work with a graphic designer, please contact Pam Smith at (360) 650-3350.

Do we need to make logo and tagline changes to our website?

Yes, as soon as possible we ask that you change the logo and tagline on your websites. Electronic versions of the logo are available for download.

Did the athletics logo change?

No. Athletics logos will remain the same.

Did the official university colors change as part of this process?

Yes. Gold is no longer an official university color; Western’s two official ink colors are a dark blue and a lighter blue (see the Brand Guide for specific ink colors). There is also now a palette of complementary colors that can be used when designing for print or the web. Information on how the colors can be used online or in print, and in conjunction with Western’s logo, wordmark and tagline, can be found in the new Brand Guide, which can be downloaded at

Is the Western Seal an official logo? Has the seal changed?

The official Western Seal has not changed and cannot be used interchangeably with the Western logo. The seal is reserved for academic use only by the Office of the President and the Provost’s Office.

Will there be a new WWU web template as a result of the institutional identification process?

Yes, as the next phase of its integrated marketing efforts, Western is engaged in the reconstruction of its website. It will include a new template using the new logo and design elements and will be operational at the start of the 2011-12 school year. This project will also include templates for use by departments, colleges and programs. For assistance with your current WWU page and the Western identity, see

Can I customize the identity or its elements, or just use parts of it as I see fit?

No. The university has the expectation that all units will follow the Brand Guide to the letter. The strength of any identity, in part, is consistency. In order for this repositioning effort to achieve its full potential, it is critically important that Western’s image has a strong, consistent visual identity across all colleges, departments and offices.

How can this effort be used effectively to assist and promote Western during a time of increased budget cutting by the state?

This effort is intended to improve Western’s visual identity and to help spread the university’s messages about how Western serves and benefits the citizens of the state of Washington and beyond. During these times of severe budget cutbacks to Western and other public institutions of higher education in the state, competition is only increasing for limited resources. This effort will pay off in student and faculty recruitment, future legislative support and increased fundraising.

The goal of the institutional identification process is to provide the Western community with comprehensive data and opinions on the university’s strengths and weaknesses, and an understanding of how it is perceived internally and externally. This information then allows Western to strategically enhance the image, reputation and visibility of Western. It is an investment in Western’s long-term excellence and adheres to the university’s mission and strategic goals. Research has shown that top universities have consistent imaging across all academic and business units.

Can our office, department, or college continue to utilize a sub-identity?

Please contact University Communications for assistance in incorporating sub-identity.

Do you have questions about the identity or its guidelines for usage?

Contact John Thompson, manager of marketing, in the Office of University Communications. He can be reached at (360) 650-3350.

How was this project funded?

The primary cost was hiring Lyric Inc., a Seattle firm, for help with this initiative. The funds used to pay Lyric were not state funded (or taxpayer funded) and not tuition funded but from earnings from service-delivery functions by the university.