UCL Culture 

UCL Culture —
case study

Positioning, identity & activation


A powerful purpose and iconic identity for a radical new department

University College London is one of the world’s most respected education brands, known for its academic excellence and research. It is also a leader in the growing discipline of public engagement; with specialist teams of curators and facilitators managing an ongoing events programme, a portfolio of word-class collections, a network of central London museums and the Bloomsbury Theatre. 


In 2016, we were asked to help bring these different parts together to create UCL Culture, a united department with an ambitious mission. 

The challenge

Shaking up 

We knew we needed to find common ground quickly, so we started with working sessions, bringing together the public engagement team, curators from museums and collections and theatre management to create a shared sense of direction. It quickly became clear that, while everyone brought distinctive skills and assets, all teams were united by a drive to stimulate, experiment and challenge expectations.


Opening up

When we looked at public engagement across the university sector, we saw an opportunity for UCL to go further. Rather than just taking the university’s work out to the general public, we realised the new department could also bring the outside world in – creating new connections and combinations, stimulating new ideas and inspiring students and staff to open their minds.


Going to the source

We went back to founding principles, tapping into the university’s proud heritage of radical and progressive thinking to give UCL Culture a belief and purpose designed to help uphold this defining spirit. 

“UCL was established in 1826 in order to open up education in England for the first time to students of any race, class or religion. By 1878, it had become the first English university to welcome female students on equal terms with men.”

— Founding principles
Thomas Arnold. Illustration by Ugly Meal

“University College… that Godless institution in Gower Street”

— Thomas Arnold, Educator & Historian 1795-1842


We believe in the power of open


To spark connections between people and ideas


We've always believed in the power of being open. We were founded in 1826 with a mission to open up education and opportunity and that principle remains at our heart today.


It's important to us because it makes for a fairer world but also because we know when we open our doors, we open our minds. We know the more curious we are, the more open to different perspectives, ideas and influences, the more breakthroughs we create. And we know when we're open to the wider world, when we're prepared to work in partnership, we create more positive impact and move forward faster.


That's why we're dedicated to inspiring a culture of openness across the university, creating the right conditions to spark new connections between people and ideas both inside and out.


The Culture department needed a distinctive look and feel that could work across educational courses, venues, events and performances; a creative expression fit for a world-class cultural brand but firmly based in UCL’s visual identity system. 


We focused on the organisation’s core design asset: the brand bar, which frames all content and holds the UCL logotype. This monolithic device represents the strength and stature of the institution – we unlocked it and subverted it, opening up the bar to reveal the rich diversity of influences and ideas that drive UCL. 


UCL Culture launched with a dedicated website for idea sharing, outreach and events booking. We worked with UCL’s web agency to bring the visual identity to life online and collaborated with the Culture comms team to develop posters, literature and environmental branding. We created a Manifesto to sit at the heart of the department’s launch and engagement programme; setting out their role as instigators, disruptors and guardians of UCL’s open mind.

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