SPS Brand Standards

Visual and editorial guidlines and resources for SPS staff

Voice

Every communication from Northwestern not only conveys information, but also leaves an impression. To ensure that our communications carry a strong and consistent voice, use these personality traits as a guide. These are not words that should necessarily appear in our writing, but rather the emotive qualities our work should have, and the characteristics of the people with whom the piece should resonate.


At Northwestern, we are intellectual thrill-seekers.
We are...
  Ambitious: Driven, bold, and confident, without arrogance
  Imaginative: Seeking opportunities to discover, invent, and create
  Optimistic: Confident that the best ideas are yet to come
  Curious: Motivated to explore, excited by solving a problem

Nomenclature

Because of our rich heritage and our complex and diverse community, several names are used to represent the University. This section aims to clear up any confusion.

OFFICIAL FULL NAME
The full name of our institution is “Northwestern University.” Use the full name on first mention in publications and in any situation where it’s not immediately obvious that you’re referring to a university.

OFFICIAL INFORMAL NAME
Colloquially, we all refer to this institution as simply “Northwestern.” This shorthand is acceptable in all content where it’s apparent that the communication is coming from a university. Using it can lend a more conversational tone to communications.

SOCIAL MEDIA ABBREVIATION
For social media handles, use the briefest and clearest explanation of your entity, but be sure to include the “Northwestern” name in the account description.

WHAT TO AVOID
The abbreviation “NU” is not approved for use within our brand. Avoid this term, as it’s too generic to identify us, and too casual to represent our University. Legacy names using the abbreviation may continue to do so.

Brand Narrative and Theme

The narrative is a simple articulation of the Northwestern brand. It is not a script or an elevator speech, but a guide to inspire brand storytelling.
Copy from the narrative can be adopted for the specific information you need to convey, or just used to ensure that you’ve captured the proper voice.

Some of us know who we want to be, where we want to go, what we want to discover. And some don’t. But one thing is certain. The path to what’s next isn’t just on a map. It’s a mindset.

At Northwestern, our journeys are filled with just the right amount of twists, turns, and intersections. Because discovery occurs in uncommon spaces. It’s born where science bumps into art. It thrives where concrete meets abstract. And it comes to life in a place where mistakes lead to milestones, and firsts lead to nexts.

It’s what could only exist here, in this unique environment that unites knowledge and ideas, ambition and imagination, hard work and joy.

It’s impossible to know exactly where our paths will take us. But that’s not why we make the journey. At Northwestern, we do it for the thrill of new connections. For the spark of joy that comes from unexpected revelations. And for the ultimate impact of our ideas.

If you want to find what’s next and see how far you can go: Take a Northwestern Direction.

Using the Theme

The idea of the Northwestern Direction can be used in a variety of ways throughout communications. However, this language should never be locked up with the Northwestern logo.

DO MAKE IT PERSONAL.
“See Kyle Kremer’s Northwestern Direction...”   “...when Ginni Rometty took a Northwestern Direction.”

DO MAKE IT EMPOWERING.
“See what you can accomplish when you take a Northwestern Direction.”

DO MAKE A POINT.
“Math by way of music. That’s a Northwestern Direction.”

DON’T USE IT FOR EVERYDAY INFO.
“For this Northwestern Direction, turn left on Sherman Avenue, then go 1 mile...”

DON’T MAKE IT SEEM PRESCRIPTIVE.
“We all follow the Northwestern Direction.”

DON’T MAKE IT MONOLITHIC.
“There’s only one Northwestern Direction.”

DON’T MAKE IT AN ENDPOINT.
“Tony’s Northwestern Direction landed him at Goldman Sachs.”

DON’T LOSE THE INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXT.
“Take a Department of Quidditch Direction today.”

Tone

When we craft communications in a way that reflects our personality, they carry a certain tone. Here are some good ways to check whether the tone of your copy reflects the Northwestern brand.


IS IT RELENTLESSLY OPTIMISTIC?
Much of what we do at Northwestern is serious and complex. Strike a positive tone that focuses on impact, presents complex ideas in simple language, and celebrates successes.

DOES IT TAKE THE READER ON A JOURNEY?
The core of the Northwestern Direction idea is that the mindset that’s learned here guides us to far-reaching, sometimes unexpected places. Language and metaphors that speak to the journey traveled or the path taken paint a clear picture for readers.

DOES IT SOUND LIKE SOMETHING THESE PEOPLE MIGHT HAVE SAID OR WRITTEN?
Think of the people who excel here and those who have gone on to great things after their time at Northwestern. Does the communication carry a tone that says, “This must be from Northwestern”?