Branding | University of Oxford
Brand Guidelines cover images
Brand Guidelines cover images


What is your brand?

A logo is not a brand – a logo is just a badge. Some great brands have unimpressive logos. Some great logos belong to terrible brands. Confusingly logos are also called brandmarks, but try and be consistent and always call it a logo. That’s more than semantics. A logo has no power, little emotion and only occasionally has immediate impact.

What you see is the logo

What you feel about the company or organisation is part of their brand.

A brand is a collection of impressions (or perceptions) in the mind of the audience

This is the single most important statement in the history of marketing. It means that brands don’t spring into existence. It means that you need to feed the brand’s growth with the oxygen of contact and repetition. It means that the audience can believe something that isn’t even true but it’s still critical. And because humans can adapt, learn and change their minds it means that a brand is flexible.

One theory of how a brand is built up

Step 1: The promise

This is what the brand-owner wants – it is encapsulated in the mission statement and the initial literature produced. It is in the brief that the marketing agency worked towards at great expense to provide that flash new logo. None of which has any direct impact on the brand!

Step 2: The experience

OK, you can talk the talk – but can you walk the walk?

Key to that is the service: do you do what you say you’ll do? The experience is factual, provable, measurable and concrete. The audience or consumer will make an value for money assessment, either actually or intuitively, and rate you. The experience includes everything from the style of communication to the scripts at the call centres. If your web links are broken you won't score highly.

Step 3: The memory

The magic is in the memory! So what makes someone remember?

Positive memories seed the next layer of customers, possibly introducing the brand to audience members that missed or ignored the original communication.

Positive memories mean that the next time that person sees the logo they are primed and ready to receive more positive messages. This ability to absorb messages despite the clutter is incredibly powerful.

How can you improve a brand?

Consistency in service

Consistency in communication

Under-promising and over-delivering

University Departmental Logos

All revel in their association with the University

Oxford is one of the greatest brands in the world and is globally recognised

It has 850 years of accumulated excellence behind it

It is language independent

It has its own colour

Its brand character is very largely positive

It is so powerful that it can create an existing brand for an entirely new department. Using a small sample of non-University people, we asked them to give their immediate impressions of a logo for a new University department. Half of the new identity was the University’s main blue square logo. All the respondents said that the new department appeared excellent, well-run, properly financed etc.

Every week members of the Publications team are approached and asked to create a new brand – what people mean really is that they’d like a new logo.

It’s human nature to find it difficult to associate our working life with the monolithic Oxford brand; we work in teams and teams want recognition. But the effort involved in creating, launching, monitoring, maintaining and improving a brand are huge. Brands are the Tamagotchis of the marketing world - easy to start, they take patience to master and they soon die of neglect.

The Oxford brand is a tremendous, massively valuable asset. And it’s available to you for free at:

Brand matters

Took place on 1 May 2014

Defining brand. The University brand. Visual cohesion. A discussion led by Paul Chinn, Head of the Design Studio. And, introducing Oxford Blue, the new visual Identity Guidelines.

Oxford blue: visual identity guidelines

Design & Publications Office

General contact:

Head of Design & Publications
Anne Brunner-Ellis
Tel: 01865 280540, email:

Head of Design Studio and Deputy Head of Design & Publications
Paul Chinn
Tel: 01865 280541, email:

Publications Officer and Studio Manager
Jo Kay
Tel: 01865 280543, email:

Senior Graphic Designer
Laetitia Velia
Tel: 01865 280542, email:

Senior Graphic Designer
Christian Guthier
Tel: 01865 280542, email:

Graphic Designer
Pippa Jupe
Tel: 01865 280057, email:

Administrator, Design and Publications Office
Janet Avison
Tel: 01865 280545, email:


Gazette Editor
Dawn Dooher
Tel: 01865 280549, email:

Gazette Deputy Editor
Rosalind Cuomo
Tel: 01865 280548, email:

Oxford Today

Richard Lofthouse
Contact via Janet Avison
Tel: 01865 280545, email:


Sally Croft