Behind the Nelson Mandela University rebrand
When the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in Port Elizabeth took the decision to change and simplify its name to Nelson Mandela University, its brand council decided it was the right time to completely recreate its identity to reflect a dynamic, modern African institution. The contract was awarded to agency Creative Caterpillar.
The first aspects of the new brand architecture were launched just two days after what would have been Mandela’s 99th birthday in 2017. It has now rolled out across the campus, and continues to evolve as the needs of the university do so.
“The Nelson Mandela University logo didn’t need an emblem because the name in itself is so powerful,” says says Albert Engelbrecht, Creative Caterpillar CEO. “There was no need to add any other extra elements but focus on the core element — commemorating the iconic leader and the values instilled in the university.”
It was decided that a font-driven logo would lend simplicity of design and legibility across all platforms. A circle has replaced the ‘O’ in Nelson, and the ‘A’ in Mandela with a triangle, symbols that give meaning to the ethos of the university. The circle represents the globe, ubuntu, openness and approachability. The triangle stands for growth and forward-thinking.
The colours, too, have meaning, with the university’s blue representing maritime, wisdom and stability, while yellow gives the sense of freshness, positivity, intellect and loyalty.
The university’s brand council, through the Students Representative Council, canvassed the opinions of students. Says Engelbrecht: “They were asked, ‘What does Mandela mean to you’, and ‘How do you relate to the brand’. Not surprisingly, they said they related to the young Mandela, the Mandela who agitated for change. The revolutionary. That’s what they liked, and what they latched on to. Which is why it wasn’t surprising that when they received feedback, students said the triangle indicated change while the circle showed the world. Change the world. Which of course comes back to what Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’”
“We’ve always believed good design can lead to change!” says Engelbrecht.
The rebranding of Nelson Mandela University extended across all touch points of the university, from marketing material, sporting kits, signage, certificates and news publications to university diaries, banners, corporate stationery, brand apparel, and a brand manual that is used to ensure consistency.
As Engelbrecht points out, designing a corporate identity for an educational institution requires thinking that understands how important its values are to its brand positioning. “You do not want to lose that meaning because this is a CI that represents the school and in which scholars look up to,” he says. “That is why it was, and still is, important to include all stakeholders to ensure the CI is true, genuine and accepted by all parties. When designing the CI, another aspect we considered is the direction in which the university is heading towards. This is an institution that is recognised for its leadership and contribution to regional, national and global sustainability. Therefore, the CI created truly speaks to its ethos, generating cutting-edge knowledge that can change the world. Being open to change is one important avenue within which we can allow ourselves to create designs that are truly representative of who we are now, and where we see ourselves heading.”
— One subscription form, three newsletters: sign up now for the MarkLives newsletter, including Ramify headlines; The Interlocker, our new monthly comms-focused mailer; and Brands & Branding, launching soon!