UCD Innovation Academy
A vibrant new brand and visual identity for the Innovation Academy, part of UCD (University College Dublin).
The Innovation Academy helps UCD students and lifelong learners to transform their mindset through experiential learning. The new brand and website needed to better reflect the adventurous, high-energy and impactful learning experiences on offer.
IE Brand repositioned the Innovation Academy to convey its fun and innovative approach to education. We also brought out the depth of expertise on the team, the academic rigour behind every course, and the success stories and impact they generate.
The Innovation Academy is University College Dublin’s centre for experiential learning.
It was a ground-breaking development in 2010, when UCD became one of the first universities to develop graduates with an entrepreneurial mindset and the resilience to adapt.
Since then, other players have begun to catch up and the UCD Innovation Academy needed to reassert itself in the marketplace. Ahead of the rebrand, IE Brand held internal stakeholder workshops with the educators and business development team at UCD Innovation Academy. Through these sessions, our brand researchers got to the heart of the Academy’s communication challenges.
Speaking to the team, it was clear that they had a distinctive, charming personality. Unfortunately, this wasn’t coming through in their old communications.
Reframing and strengthening the brand
The Innovation Academy was generally thought of as a building where people went to learn. We needed to reframe it, away from the physical location which was only one part of the story. Instead, the Innovation Academy needed to represent the team of inspired thinkers who help people to get ahead and to see the world differently.
They were also struggling to describe the benefits of their courses. They were getting bogged down with jargon and corporate buzzwords, which felt at odds with their down-to-earth personality.
IE Brand pinpointed a number of recommendations for strengthening the brand.
This has been a period of rapid change for the Academy, but IE was flexible and responsive as things shifted. Coming from an agency background, I really appreciated how attentive the IE team were throughout the project. They made us feel as important as a top-spending client and took a genuine interest in who we are. Despite the lack of face-to-face contact due to Covid, IE made it a highly collaborative process. They made everyone feel included through a series of online workshops, which were a great experience. No mean feat when your participants include world-class experiential educators! I loved working with the IE team and would do so again in a heartbeat.
IE recommended that the UCD Innovation Academy needed to work on bringing the learning experience to life through its branding and website.
Adding maturity and rigour
Innovation Academy had the infectious energy and drive of a start-up, which needed to shine through in all of its comms. But it also needed to demonstrate some rigour and professionalise its offer. The Academy's pioneering approach sometimes meant it wasn't taken seriously, so it became a priority to showcase the robust experience and credentials of their educators.
The website also highlights the academic rigour behind their approach, with courses validated by a leading academic and external examiner and support from a world-class International Advisory Board.
We needed to demonstrate the transformational impact of the Innovation Academy's courses on participants. This meant tapping into the alumni community – the thousands of people who have loved their time at the Academy and gone on to achieve great things in their careers.
The Innovation Academy collected alumni success stories to show the impact on their lives and careers and capture the buzz of the experiential approach. We then dotted these stories throughout the new website, along with photos and videos of the learning experience. In the longer term, the Innovation Academy is developing an alumni programme to keep past students more closely engaged. By building their community of enthusiastic ambassadors, more people will get to hear about the IA experience.
Removing the jargon
The Innovation Academy is delightfully down to earth and exciting, so we needed to bring that through in its brand messaging.
That meant stripping out any buzzwords that made it feel too contrived. We also needed to clarify what the Innovation Academy offers and how it’s delivered. In crafting the new brand messaging matrix we chose simpler, more authentic wording where possible.
The new messaging outlines the drivers, calls to action and marketing messages for each core audience:
- UCD students – Existing undergraduates and postgraduate students from across all disciplines, who can apply for modules at the Innovation Academy.
- Lifelong learners – Adults who have hit a turning point in their career and want to upskill.
- Alumni – IA’s army of past students who can now become ambassadors for this unique learning experience with case studies and testimonials.
- Partners – From government and policymakers to corporates and academics.
- Educators – Educators come to the Academy to learn pioneering approaches to learning and reignite their love of teaching.
With the brand messaging agreed, it was time for IE Brand to create a dynamic new logo and visual identity.
The visual identity had to be highly distinctive and recognisable, to distinguish the Academy from both its parent UCD brand and its competitors. It needed to be bold, high energy, and convey the transformative experiences on offer to students.
An iconic window to the world
The new Innovation Academy brand is stripped back to two simple geometric shapes – a rectangle and a triangle, mirroring the shape of the letters I and A. As the only graphic element, the IA icon is simple, bold and flexible.
The icon can be shown in outline or filled with colour from our palette of vibrant colours. It can be the focal point of a layout or used small in a repeating pattern. Alternatively, it can be a window onto the world. We often use it to contain two contrasting images side by side, to tell a story. For the website's homepage banner we juxtaposed black and white footage of old-school classroom learning with film of the dynamic learning environments at the Innovation Academy.
The Innovation Academy is exploring the use of Virtual Reality (VR) in education, so part of the brief was to consider how the logo might work in 3D animation or 360° visualisations. The icon can also be created physically from Lego or recreated with clever use of photography, like the image of a pyramid shown here.
Bringing the learning experience to life
The visual identity also uses photos and videos of the Innovation Academy in action. By showing educators and students having fun in the unique learning environment, or collaborating in the Academy’s MakerSpace, we can bring the less tangible aspects of the courses to life. This might mean people using Lego, pipe cleaners and Post-it notes, or experimenting with 3D printing and virtual reality.
The result is a brand that embodies the curious, inspiring, inviting, charming, empathetic and professional personality of the Innovation Academy and the people that work there.
IE Brand designed and built the new Innovation Academy website, with generous splashes of attention-grabbing colours and plenty of movement.
The WordPress site is highly flexible and future-proofed for whichever direction the Innovation Academy may choose to take. Read our full case study for the UCD Innovation Academy website.
Copywriting and populating the new site content
We also provided copywriting and content support for the site. We worked closely with the Innovation Academy team to create all of the site’s written content, based on the new brand messaging matrix. We brought consistency to the course descriptions, crafted team biographies, and articulated the key messages for each user.
We then populated the site with copy and imagery before handing over to the client for acceptance testing and review.