University of Hawaii to Launch New System-Wide Brand Identity

UH strives to increase awareness and share its story across the country and internationally

University of Hawaiʻi
Posted: Nov 22, 2002

The University of Hawaiʻi System has announced plans to revamp its marketing, advertising, and graphic identity program. The Brand Strategy Group, Robert Rytter & Associates graphic design firm, and Starr Seigle Advertising have all been awarded contracts to assist the university in establishing its new institutional identity.

In the spring of 2002, the University of Hawaiʻi Office of External Affairs and University Relations began examining how the University of Hawaiʻi system was perceived both internally and to the public at large. At that time, the university partnered with The Brand Strategy Group, lead by Gloria Garvey and Brook Gramann, to conduct a comprehensive analysis examining perceptions of the university‘s institutional identity on its ten campuses. They conducted interviews, focus groups, and managed a comprehensive study of best practices in education branding.

Their research showed that UH‘s brand image was fractured with over 150 logos in use system-wide. They also found that the university had no distinct message or theme and that many programs failed to mention their affiliation with the University of Hawaiʻi. Without a consistent brand image, The Brand Strategy Group found that it was nearly impossible for audiences to recognize the values of the university identified by the strategic plan such as access, affordability, excellence, diversity, fairness, and equity. From their findings, The Brand Strategy Group realized the intense need for a visual identity program.

"It is important to establish a visual identity program for UH, ensuring that clientele such as students, alumni, media, and the community easily understand and recognize the breadth and strength of the University of Hawai'i brand," said Gloria Garvey, principal of The Brand Strategy Group. "Because your brand is the promise you make to your constituents, it is critical to make sure the brand values make the brand promise come to life at every UH campus."

The university issued an RFP and 14 design firms from Hawaiʻi, California, New York, and Maryland responded to the RFP. Initially, six firms were selected as semi-finalists and after presentations the field was narrowed to two finalists. Robert Rytter & Associates was selected based on their expertise and experience in creating graphic identities for educational institutions and their emphasis on the importance of using the Hawaiian language to distinguish UH. The process for bringing the brand to life began with Robert Rytter and his team visiting every campus and meeting with representatives. From there they will develop preliminary design concepts. A system-wide committee will select three concepts for development. The final three designs will be presented to the UH community for feedback through a variety of mediums. A final recommendation will be made to the Board of Regents in spring of 2003.

"The University of Hawaiʻi system brand is our most valuable strategic asset in recruiting students and faculty, increasing research funds, and securing grants, yet our message is inconsistent and worse, indistinguishable from other institutions of higher education," said Paul Costello, UH vice president for external affairs and university relations. "No where else on earth can you have a similar experience to UH and we need to convey that to our various audiences."

After securing a design firm, an open RFP process began to determine an advertising agency capable of implementing the new brand. Nine Hawaiʻi agencies responded and six were chosen to make presentations. Starr Seigle Advertising, Hawaiʻi‘s largest advertising firm, was selected based on their approach and depth of services. Starr Seigle will be responsible for developing system advertising campaigns, providing services to all campuses and units, creating a consistent look and feel, and introducing the new UH brand. As part of the advertising strategy, initial focus will be within Hawaiʻi but the campaign will be expanded to the mainland and international markets the following year. For more information please visit