Design students’ legacy: a new UIC identity

Hand drawing UIC logo

When Julia Jouravel graduates in May, she and her classmates will leave their mark at UIC.

Jouravel and 18 other seniors in the College of Architecture, Design, and the Arts are creating a new identity system — including a new logo — for the UIC campus.

“It gives me a great sense of accomplishment that my class and I will be leaving UIC with a new legacy,” said Jouravel, a graphic design major. “It’s been challenging, but we will leave UIC with something great.”

The students are part of a yearlong senior practicum course, Design 440: Design Thinking and Leadership, led by faculty members Cheryl Towler Weese and Meghan Ferrill.

UIC design students created UIC’s current logo more than 20 years ago, Towler Weese said. Michael Redding, executive associate chancellor of public and government affairs, engaged the Design 440 students to work on a new identity to reflect UIC’s growth over the past two decades.

“An identity system really represents the soul of an institution,” said Towler Weese, associate professor of design. “It tells us where the university is going and what it values. We want to create something that feels professional and sophisticated and is honest.”

The new identity system will create a cohesive look that stands out, Ferrill said.

“The identity that UIC has now is a little bit tired and it has not been able to stand up not only to the development of the university, but also of the city of Chicago,” said Ferrill, visiting instructor of design. “There’s a lot of visual information competing for the consumer’s eye.”

Students began working on the identity system in the fall, touring campus, researching its history and accomplishments, and interviewing key stakeholders — administrators, faculty, staff, students, alumni and community members. They presented their findings in a 35-page report to the Integrated Marketing and Strategic Communications Advisory Council, then began redesigning the campus logo.

“The impact is going to be significant no matter what we do,” Jouravel said. “This is something that people will identify UIC with for years to come, and we hope that people will have more pride and greater ties to UIC as a university.”

Students have culled their original 19 schematic designs into five conceptual directions. They will present those ideas before the end of the semester.

“We are trying to create a range of possibilities, from something that aligns the university fairly closely to the entire university system, to something quite experimental and contemporary that really presents the university as a progressive, urban institution on the leading edge of where education is going,” Towler Weese said. “And there’s a range of options in between.”

Ferrill helped students craft compelling arguments for their design concepts.

“Design thinking involves good writing — good conceptual argumentation so you can tell your story,” she said. “The language is very fresh. The students are talking about the university in a way that is really resonating with our constituent groups across the board.”

Heather Hoffman, a member of the Integrated Marketing and Strategic Communications Advisory Council, wants the new logo to have more “wow factor.”

“There’s such a competitive market in Chicago. We need something that helps us attain an identity all to ourselves,” said Hoffman, director of marketing and communications for the College of Business Administration.

“The students have done a really amazing job and are on the right track in determining who we are as a university and what our role is in the Chicago community.”

Committee member Peter Nelson, dean of the College of Engineering, said UIC’s current logo doesn’t capture the dynamic nature and vibrancy of campus.

“The logo is very important, particularly locally, for branding and recognition,” Nelson said. “The students have a lot of great ideas — they have a real understanding of UIC and are very talented professionals.”

The yearlong practicum allows students to spend more time researching the university and working on a design than a traditional design firm could provide, Towler Weese said.

“The students can go deeper and perhaps deliver more thoughtful insights and work than you might have in the real world,” she said.

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