Rebranding Stellenbosch University together

Journey to one Stellenbosch University brand

Prof Hester C Klopper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Strategy and Internationalisation, and the Corporate Communication and Marketing Division are excited to announce that the Council of Stellenbosch University has approved a new brand identity for the institution. The proposal included a new brand mark and brand positioning strategy aligned to the Vision 2040 and Strategic Framework, and represents one of the most visible institutional strategic initiatives with university-wide impact.

Part of the rebranding process included replacing the S-leaf-logo, which has been in use for 21 years, with a new institutional logo, visual identity language and brand positioning strategy. The existing heraldic crest will be retained for ceremonial purposes such as graduation.

Rebranding an institution is no easy feat, and this is indeed only a reveal, with much work to be done before we can embark on rolling out the new brand identity. The final phases of the rebranding now follows, leading to an official launch of the new brand identity and university-wide implementation.

Look out for communication in this regard in the coming months.

Introducing our new brand identity

We would like to thank our stakeholders for their valued input during this transformative journey. It is because of the critical insights of our staff, students, alumni, and extended stakeholder community that we are now able to reveal our new and approved visual identity.

The new SU logo consists of visual components and words.

The visual component has two elements: Firstly, “S” lines/ripples. These are derived from “Stellenbosch”, and resonate the warmth and vibrancy of our continent. And secondly, they form streams that flow continuously within a “U” for “University”.

On a symbolic level, these visual elements depict the journey between the past as seed (lower left element), leading us through the present (streams) towards future fruition (the top right element).

Apart from the stylised abbreviation “SU”, the new logo (or to get technical, its “wordmark”) also contains the words, “Stellenbosch”, and then “University”, in each of the three languages used by the institution – English, isiXhosa and Afrikaans (being the languages of the Western Cape province of South Africa, where the institution is situated).

Finally, the new logo’s wordmark contains the SU’s institutional slogan – “forward together, sonke siya phambili, saam vorentoe” – again in the University’s three languages.

The new SU logo is modern and streamlined, yet still with the gravitas of a classic and elegant logo. It is also legible and clear, with immediate presence and visibility – as befits an institution with world-class academic standing, aspiring to become Africa’s leading research-intensive university by 2040.

A robust stakeholder engagement process

Over time, the rebranding process evolved, and key interventions ensured that our stakeholders were prioritised throughout this process. Recently, in what became known as the pre-design engagement phase, groups such as our faculties, the Visual Redress Committee, Institutional Transformation Committee, Student Representative Council and alumni, among others, were invited to online engagement sessions. These sessions were conducted in an inclusive, consultative, and joint sense-making spirit.

The sessions were followed by a pre-design engagement survey, which was open to all staff, students, alumni, and members of Council. A total of, 1 075 people participated in this engagement phase. These initiatives provided the insights we needed for the creative design brief.

During the months of January and February 2021, the post-design engagement phase was conducted. The primary objective was testing three proposed visual identity options with key institutional groups, inclusive of students, personnel and alumni in virtual participatory sessions and an online survey. A total of 2 025 stakeholders participated. The results and insights obtained from this engagement process informed the final visual identity options that served at the statutory bodies leading up to the Council meeting on 13 April where the final visual identity was approved.

From brand refresh to rebrand: how we arrived here

Following an institution-wide visual touch-point audit conducted in 2018 where more than 170 logos were identified within the SU brand stable, a brand identity “‘refresh”’ commenced in 2019. The first step was a brand valuation and perception audit by Brand Finance, an independent service provider. The results of this audit revealed that SU was is not optimising its existing brand equity and indicated the need for a differentiated brand positioning.

Work on the development of a brand positioning strategy, brand architecture and a refreshed visual identity began in November 2019, with the appointment of the brand agency, Boomtown, through a tender process.

By using the brand valuation recommendations as the basis for our brand positioning strategy and aligning the outcomes to the six strategic themes of the University, the SU brand has the potential to support the drive in attaining the key objectives set out in Vision 2040.

In terms of the brand territory, “Exploration” was the established direction in which to proceed and ultimately craft the brand expressions upon. The description of “Exploration” is based on SU’s deep dedication to seek-out and create knowledge as a collective, in service of society. It is an endorsement of its academic heritage and its future-focused vision, while firmly placing it in a differentiated and relevant position for all stakeholders.

Our final brand positioning, “Pursue. Discover. Together”, was crafted and it guides our future outlook and our personality. To pursue discovery, is our motivation and the spark behind every meaningful impact we make -– it offers a culture of excitement, collaboration and interrogation. Together, it enables us to meet challenges with open- minds, curiosity and persistence in an environment that puts real world solutions at the heart of everything we do.

We provide a globally recognised research-intensive university in Africa, with relevance at the forefront of academic excellence. That enables us to meet the challenges and discover solutions to influence and change the world around us, while we remain open to change ourselves. Unlike other leading universities, Stellenbosch University takes a values-based approach to progression. Through purposeful connections and critical thinking that shifts boundaries and perceptions, together we thrive by moving humankind forward.

Using the brand positioning as a foundation and as springboard into visual design, initially, Boomtown’s mandate was to refresh the visual identity, but as the process unfolded, and based on valuable input gained from engagements with key institutional groups, the mandate changed from a refresh to the development of a brand-new visual identity.

When the mandate changed, so did the design process. The design brief was then informed by SU stakeholder, who were invited to participate in structured engagement sessions and workshops. Thus, engagement would precede design.

For further enquiries

Contact: The Corporate Communication & Marketing Division
Brand Management Unit

Media enquiries
Martin Viljoen

*The new brand identity will be rolled out at Stellenbosch University during the next few months. Above are some examples of how the new brand identity will be applied.