Only rebrands Cardiff University with a new focus on community

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A new brand for Cardiff University evokes a century-long spirit of unity and progress, helping the institution attract the calibre of staff and students it deserves.

Established in 1883, Cardiff University has a long and proud tradition as a beacon of excellence, influencing the global stage through its teaching and research. It is the only Welsh member of the Russell Group of research-intensive British universities, and academics and alumni of the university have included three heads of state or government and two Nobel laureates.

However, despite its standing, the university has struggled to attract the very best students and staff. To address this and broader cultural challenges at the institution, strategy and design consultancy Only were tasked
with transforming its image.

The studio delved deeply into the university’s culture and conducted extensive research with current and prospective students, uncovering a compelling history and a unique spirit of unity and progress.

Brand strategy

Working with the university leadership, Only developed a new brand strategy titled ‘Together in progress’, celebrating its forward-thinking ethos and united ambition.

The strategy brings staff and students from different schools and colleges together for the first time. Where others focus on individual success, ‘Together in Progress’ celebrates a community united by passion and committed to shaping a better world for all.

In this way, the university’s updated visual identity showcases a historic Welsh institution at the forefront of academic discovery.

Logo and visual elements

The logo has been redrawn for better legibility, allowing the university to hero the letterforms in the application. Meanwhile, a refreshed and more refined approach to colour has brought vibrancy and consistency to the brand.

Typography plays a leading role, too with Marr Sans and Darby Serif combining to offer flexibility, underlining the university’s world-leading academic credentials and celebrating its authentic culture.

In partnership with Commercial Type, Only developed Welsh digraphs for the typefaces for use across Welsh language applications. In use, these glyphs celebrate the university’s Welsh heritage and its commitment to championing the language.

The wider visual language is simple and adaptable, enabling the university to introduce this new approach gradually and extensively. In collaboration with in-house teams, the new identity is being implemented across campus, in colleges, support services and targeted campaigns.

“Universities often get caught up in the intensity of student recruitment marketing and end up competing on familiar messages about future prospects and individual success,” says Daniel Tweddle, strategy director at Only. “But a university’s brand extends beyond student recruitment marketing.

“For Cardiff University, our focus was on creating a sense of community and celebrating the institution’s unique character,” he continues. “We set out to create an identity that united everything – from its academic excellence to its cultural and social ethos – ensuring it resonated not just with potential students but with the entire university community and beyond.”

Laura Davies, director of communications, marketing and student recruitment at Cardiff University, adds: “The University is a complex and multifaceted institution. Only have been instrumental in guiding our community toward a shared sense of purpose, community and direction. For the first time, they have provided us with a visionary and forward-thinking strategy that is propelling our brand onward, coupled with a visual identity that seamlessly encapsulates our heritage, current endeavours, and future aspirations.”

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