SFU brand refresh, questions and answers – part 1

June 03, 2019

Thank you all for coming to the brand refresh meeting last week.

It’s a fascinating topic and we’re thrilled about your passion.

There were some questions outstanding at the end of the meeting. We’ve compiled the questions, consolidated similar ones and done our best to answer them.

The first group focuses on brand elements – fonts, images, logos etc.

Keep your eyes on this space. A second series of questions focused on accessibility, process and digital will be posted soon.

Category: Brand Elements

1. What about First Nations Unicode? (34 votes)

Including Indigenous elements in every aspect of our brand work (fonts as well as language, writing guidelines, wayfinding, naming, etc.) has been identified as a priority from the beginning. We have used an Indigenous font called Canada 1500 in recent applications and would like to work towards an even more comprehensive and meaningful approach. In keeping with the ARC recommendations, this work will be driven by Indigenous experts in the field. We have begun these conversations with ARC and OAP. As those pieces are developed and included, they will be added to the overall brand guidelines. We believe it is critical to ensure the direction comes from the community and takes into account the perspectives of the multiple First Nations whose traditional territories are the locations of SFU’s campuses.

2. I love the Countach headline font. But what about the problem this presents in print? Hugging the margin without bleed is problematic for printers' cut lines. (20 votes)

We love Countach too, so that’s great news! You’re right about paying attention to the file set up and cut lines. One detail that will help is to get comfortable with a tiny hairline of red showing, if that’s what happens. It’s better to see that than to build in bleed and end up with an overly wide character. Certain print jobs will lend themselves to different design considerations. For instance, a saddle-stitched report of more than 40 pages will have a certain amount of “creep” happen with the stitching which will make the bleed harder to control on page edges.

3. How should we deal with dropping the “faculty” when our faculty acronym would be less than ideal.. for example, FASS would become “ASS” (12 votes)

Using the informal logo is not mandatory. FASS may, for example, choose to use their formal logo in all communications and, with the dean’s discretion, extend the use of informal logos to specific departments or schools within the faculty.

4. Love the B&W choice but good B&W is not just removing the colour from a photo. Would be great to get tips and tricks and/or approaches when using B&W (11 votes)

Lighting and contrast are key in shooting black-and-white photography, and many professional photographers are knowledgeable on these aspects. In order to fully achieve the new brand’s black and white photojournalistic style, we strongly recommend you work with photographers from Communications & Marketing or, if working with external photographers, please have them review pages 33-36 in the brand guidelines, which describe our photography style, including when colour photography can be used to support black-and-white imagery. Furthermore, our image library has a number of black-and-white images that you can use readily. And finally, please make sure you sign up for future workshops where we will share useful tips on how to shoot on-brand images.

5. Will we have a new business card template with social media handles? (10 votes)

Currently business cards with social media handles is a custom order through DocSol. Please contact them directly. We will notify Communicators when DocSol business cards support social handles.

6. Will we get the fonts to use on our own computer or do we have to use the workstation? (10 votes)

One set of standard fonts is being shared with each faculty and department communicator. Additional requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Standard fonts can be purchased directly; see page 29 in the brand guidelines for specific purchase information. At time of publishing, rough costs for the three standard fonts was $130. (Please note that the custom serif font for DIN requires a follow-up email direct to the foundry.) And don’t forget - system fonts are universal on all SFU computers!

7. Some of the images in the new image gallery are quite old. Some of the “students” graduated years ago & some campus shots are dated.  Will these be updated? (9 votes)

Yes. Our image library will be refreshed continuously and new images be added to replace older ones. If you have ideas about areas or subjects that we need to better represent, or if you see any outdated image that need to be removed, please email

8. Given the font is so bold, (square, sharp edges) how does this fold into mental awareness messages and campaigns that require a “softer” look and feel. (8 votes)

Think of our brand look and feel as a system of elements that work in unison to create a specific look and feel. For the majority of our communications, a bold, strong look is effective for standing out in market. However, if the purpose of the communication calls for a different overall tone, we can tweak, dial up/down, improvise with certain elements to achieve the right overall feel—whether it involves fonts, colours, layouts or other elements within our system.

9. Would you say b/w photos would significantly limit visual marketing strategies, or the amount of images you could work with? Some photos are better in colour. (8 votes)

While black-and-white images are featured prominently in our brand, we do use colour photography in smaller applications, as explained on pages 33-34 in the Brand Guidelines. The new brand’s photography style does require you to focus, not limit, your visual strategy using specific parameters to achieve the intended overall visual impact.

10. Curious about the difference between the formal and informal logo? (8 votes)

In short, the formal is what folks are currently using and we recommend using it in more, wait for it, formal situations, like official correspondence. The informal logo can be used at the dean’s discretion but applications like external marketing or collateral are good examples of where the bold typography will shine. See pages 16-20 for more detail about the differences and options.

11. Are there plans for living by our brand values in our copywriting? How can we write
fearlessly, compassionately and unconventionally? (7 votes)

Absolutely. Page 37 of the Brand Guidelines talks about the tone of voice for the brand. You’ll also find the Brand DNA document on the Communicators Toolkit website helpful in understanding our brand position, promise, attributes, message framework and reasons to believe. Stay tuned for workshops coming this summer and fall to learn more about how you can bring the brand to life in your storytelling.

12. If red doesn’t work for SVSPO to be inclusive why would it be used across SFU?  It does appear more in ‘alarm’ and danger messaging. (6 votes)

Red, yellow and orange are colours used in many different applications, including safety or hazard graphics and signage, as well as retail categories like telecommunications, consumer packaged goods, automobiles … see a list here. Locally, we know our audience already associates SFU with red due to our logo block, just like they associate UBC with blue. The outcome of the consultation with SVSPO was in direct response to explicit concerns and needs for their audience. If you have concerns about your particular audience, please reach out to

13. With SFU red having not enough contrast from the new when overlaid (digital print, and accessible design practices), why was this chosen as a pair? (6 votes)

Our brand colour scheme was chosen and tested carefully. The colour values on page 37 of the Brand Guidelines are for ensuring the “correct” red shades are used and sufficient contrast is achieved.

14. If another institution starts using b&w photos, are we set up to adjust? (5 votes)

That’s a great question and possibly a situation that could arise out-of-province. It’s not impossible, but highly unlikely, that a B.C. post secondary institution would pursue a look and feel that is rapidly becoming our signature look. However, if we encountered another institution that employs black-and-white photography in the exact same way that we do, i.e. to demonstrate an “engaged” positioning by depicting real people engaged in action using specific colours and messaging, we’d want to assess the implications for the SFU brand within the market of that institution, review their core product differentiators and re-evaluate.

15. How do we reflect partnerships with external organizations in the new visual identity? (5 votes)

For now, we’ve concentrated on limited examples, such as SFU and a couple external partners. See page 23 of our brand guidelines. However, there are many case-by-case scenarios to consider and where we will do more work to offer solutions. For instance, when multiple SFU units sponsor an external event, our goal is to use the masterbrand logo once and then list the participating units. This reflects the principles behind our logo architecture - we are one SFU to our audience. Recognition will be given not through multiple SFU logos, but copy and consideration in design.

16. How do we drive consistency In terms of the quality of B/W photography given it is so easy for images to appear flat without colors. Ex: highlights shadows etc (4 votes)   

Images appear flat when mid-tones over power the light tones and dark tones. When shooting, we encourage that you pay close attention to lighting conditions to ensure the subject of the composition is properly lit. If properly lit, the photo should contain a decent tonal range that will appear good when converted to black and white. In short, properly lit photos will create consistency with SFU imagery over time. Also, there are simple tricks to improve the contrast in your photos. If you need some support, reach out to us at

17. Will we gain access to the font? (4 votes)

One set of standard fonts is being shared with each faculty and department communicator. Additional requests are being reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Standard fonts can be purchased directly; see page 29 in the brand guidelines for specific purchase information. At time of publishing, rough costs for the three standard fonts was $130. (Please note that the custom serif font for DIN requires a follow-up email direct to the foundry.) And don’t forget - system fonts are universal on all SFU computers!

18. Sometimes a red logo with white font for the name doesn’t work on black. Will you be releasing an all white logo? (4 votes)

There is a black-and-white version of the logo; please see page 14 in the brand guidelines. What we don’t have is a reverse colour logo (i.e. white reversed out of red). This was an intentional decision as the impact of the original red block is diffused when reversed. Our masterbrand is distinctive and needs to be protected.

19. Is the “...for good” advertising here to stay and what is the story behind those two words? (3 votes)

This copy device is being used for the external institutional campaign that will run until at least the end of President Petter’s term in August 2020. These ads have been approved by executive and are building awareness in market. The words “for good” help set us up to talk about specific examples that illustrate the brand promise found in our brand DNA: “Engagement and knowledge to improve life and advance society.”

20. Will there be standardized icons? (3 votes)

Yes, standardized icons will come with the digital brand guidelines scheduled for fall 2019.

21. B/w is unique but it’s a short-term strategy, how is this creating flexibility among communicators? (2 votes)

“Short-term” is in the eye of the beholder! In other words, we don’t have a definitive timeline set out for how long we’ll use this element to support our brand. Over time, we’ll hear feedback and review market research to help calibrate decisions moving forward. For now, our new photojournalistic style is unique and that’s why we’re so excited about it. It’s one element to compliment the unique stories and content that communicators will create for their audiences. Flexibility can be found through careful use of secondary colour images, as well as copywriting and application of other design elements, such as typography.

22. Not all departments do external advertising, so how will this work for internal campaigns? (2 votes)

The new brand is intended for both external and internal campaigns. If you have specific challenges you’re concerned with, please email your question to

23. Is there a reason why we’re keeping two tones of red? (2 votes)

We love the bold and fearless choice that we’ve made by adding a second, lighter red to compliment the foundational red of the SFU block. It’s unconventional and memorable. This is extremely important for building build awareness with limited resources. See page 27 of our Brand Guidelines.

24. I'm curious to know what about black and white imagery resonates “compassionate” and “approachable”? (1 vote)

When we think of those two brand attributes, the subject matter and composition of the images will convey both compassion and approachability. There’s a legacy of powerful emotion associated with our compelling photojournalistic style.

25. As the primary photography style is black and white, do we need to use black and white photography on our website or news story? How about on social media? (1 vote)

Brand applications on digital channels are in the process of being defined. Stay tuned for updates through SFU Communicators channels.

26. When illustrations are hero images do they also need to be in black and white and red? (1 vote)

This is an area that we haven’t yet defined in our brand guidelines. We’d be happy to consult with you and see which brand elements might compliment illustrations you’re using in marketing materials.