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Marketing and Student Recruitment

SOAS Visual Identity FAQs

For more information contact comms@soas.ac.uk

  1. Why did SOAS need to refresh its visual identity?
  2. What does SOAS hope the refreshed visual identity will achieve?
  3. Who was consulted throughout the Reputation and Identity Review project?
  4. Who designed the new visual identity?
  5. How much did the project cost?
  6. Why has the tree been redrawn?
  7. Why was gold chosen for the tree symbol and not green like the old tree symbol?
  8. Doesn’t the refreshed tree look similar to other tree symbols?
  9. Why are we using SOAS, University of London as our name?
  1. Why did SOAS need to refresh its visual identity?

    • The higher education marketplace is becoming increasingly competitive and students have more choice than ever before. They are re-evaluating university education in terms of an investment and will therefore be much more demanding in their expectations. The need for SOAS to strengthen its brand was highlighted as a priority recommendation by SOAS’ external auditors in their review of marketing and branding in 2009. The 2009-2011 External Relations Strategy therefore committed to a review of our visual identity and brand.
    • Three major pieces of quantitative and qualitative research were commissioned into the profile and perceptions of SOAS during 2010-11 which also sought views of the School’s name and association with the University of London.
    • This research was carried out with a range of internal and external audiences in the UK and internationally (staff, students, alumni, funders, donors, UK general public, overseas agents, media, employers of our students). Over 1,000 people shared their views about our reputation and identity.
    • Extensive audits were also undertaken of SOAS’ web presence and printed materials and comparisons made with our competitors. When we looked into how our logo was being used we found out that in 2010/11 alone SOAS spent more than £225,000 on the design and print of materials commissioned by a wide variety of different departments and using 20 different external suppliers. This inevitably meant that our materials all had a different look and feel and were not giving a consistent impression of SOAS as a leading 1994 Group research intensive university.
    • The need for SOAS to improve the presentation of its visual identity was a consistent theme in the research and was further supported by the Vision and Strategy focus groups and meetings in Spring 2012 where many staff and students commented that SOAS needed to raise its profile and ‘smarten’ its appearance.

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  2. What does SOAS hope the refreshed visual identity will achieve?

    • A professional, consistent and modern visual identity will help consolidate our profile in the higher education marketplace.
    • Having a consistent visual identity will increase the awareness of our name as SOAS, University of London. It will also support SOAS to consolidate its profile in academic journals and specialist media, as well as in the media and with the general public.  It will be of particular importance as the School prepares for the Research Excellence Framework and to implement its own Degree Awarding Powers while also working to address its position in the league tables.

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  3. Who was consulted throughout the Reputation and Identity Review project?

    • A Reputation and Identity Steering Group represented staff from across all faculties and professional services and representation from the Students’ Union and Executive Board. The Steering Group was involved in the whole project. Their input, comment and advice was incredibly helpful in shaping the final design.
    • In total more than 1,000 people took part in the research, and their thoughts and opinions were fed back to the Reputation and Identity Steering Group, External Relations Committee and Executive Board. Their input has been useful in helping the School understand its place in the UK and international higher education sectors, and what people (staff, students, prospective students, influencers, funders, employers of our students etc) value about us and areas that we need to improve. The need for SOAS to make its identity clearer and more representative of our regions of expertise was a key finding of the research.
    • Staff from across the School including a range of academic and professional services staff, a Students’ Union representative and the School’s Governing Body were involved in the selection process for both the research and design agencies.

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  4. Who designed the new visual identity?

    • Following a comprehensive selection process, design experts Lloyd Northover were appointed in January 2012 to refresh SOAS’ visual identity.  Lloyd Northover have extensive experience in developing and refreshing visual identities, including in the higher education sector across the UK and Europe.

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  5. How much did the project cost?

    • The total cost of the Reputation and Identity Review (RIR) project was £110,702 which included two stages – a research stage and a design and production stage. The design of the logo was only a small part of the total cost of the RIR project. The RIR project will have greater impact and longer term benefits for our reputation and identity that go beyond a refreshed tree symbol.
    • Costs were met from reallocating existing Marketing Department budgets and savings generated in the production and print of corporate publications eg Annual Review and Financial Statements. The RIR project incurred no additional expenditure for SOAS.
    • The research stage cost £57,702 for three major pieces of quantitative and qualitative market research which included interviews and input from 1,000 people. The international and UK research included interviews with SOAS contacts including staff, students, alumni, Governing Body members and other stakeholders including, donors, employers, media, academic peers, external bodies such as Higher Education Funding Council for England and Arts and Humanities Research Council and international agents.
    • The design and production stage cost £53,000 for developing and designing the refreshed tree symbol, producing style guidelines, typefaces and colour palette and templates for stationery, PowerPoint presentations, leaflets and posters. This also included the template design for the new look website.
    • Cost effectiveness was one of the key criteria of the agency selection process.

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  6. Why has the tree been redrawn?

    • The previous tree symbol, launched in 1989, is dated, poorly drawn and difficult to reproduce accurately. It certainly was not welcomed when it was first introduced, however, over the years people grew to like it though there has always been confusion about what the tree is and what it represents. It was important not to lose the positive connotations of a ‘tree of knowledge’, nor that SOAS had been represented by a tree symbol for many years, but the drawing could be improved, and imbued with more meaning.
    • The refreshed SOAS tree now allows us to say more about SOAS and includes our distinct regional focus through the leaves of 10 trees indigenous to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the UK. As an academic institution, it was important that the detail was correct, so the leaves were selected in consultation with academics and regional specialists across SOAS and the research and drawings verified by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

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  7. Why was gold chosen for the tree symbol and not green like the old tree symbol?

    • Gold has positive associations with many cultures.  These associations include wisdom, knowledge, understanding and enlightenment and reflect SOAS’ quality and uniqueness.
    • Gold, was chosen for the refreshed tree symbol because it reproduces well in the normal four colour printing process as well as online including on our website.
    • Unlike the old tree symbol which required a special gold, no special colours have been used for the refreshed tree symbol or colour palette.  The gold colour used in the previous tree symbol could not be reproduced as part of the normal four colour printing process - it had to be bought separately.
    • Many other organisations use a green tree symbol in their logo and SOAS’ gold tree is unique.
    • Colour plays an important part in our identity and used correctly makes all communications consistent and cohesive. The colour palette is made up of natural colours of the world. The secondary colour palette consists of eight different colours that can be used in the design of a range printed and online materials.

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  8. Doesn’t the refreshed tree look similar to other tree symbols?

    • Many organisations use a tree symbol in their logo precisely because it has positive connotations– this was also the case with the old green tree symbol.
    • SOAS has used a tree symbol for 23 years.  The redrawn SOAS tree, developed from the old one, now allows us to say more about SOAS and includes our distinct regional focus through the leaves of 10 trees indigenous to Asia, Africa, the Middle East and the UK.
    • The refreshed SOAS tree is distinctive and unique to SOAS.
    • The designers are experts in the creation of company and institutional visual identities and as such consulted with a trademark lawyer. The SOAS tree was drawn so that it is unique and different from other tree symbols.
    • The refreshed tree is part of a logo that includes the School’s name and clearly distinguishes SOAS from other organisations.

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  9. Why are we using SOAS, University of London as our name?

    • The need to be consistent in our name was one of the key findings of the research. SOAS is not as widely known as it should be, and of those that do know about the School, half know it as SOAS and the other half as the School of Oriental and African Studies. The full, longer name also is confusing – the word school does not relate to higher education in some countries, the word Oriental has some negative connotations (especially in the US) and the name does not include the Middle East. The case for the name 'SOAS, University of London' was agreed at an RIR Steering Group meeting last year, before being presented to and agreed at External Relations Committee and Executive Board.
    • The name SOAS, University of London allows for SOAS to broaden its offer or for any future changes in direction the School’s management may wish to consider.

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