NC State University Brand Refresh,
Technology as a force for good

While in the midst of the nuts and bolts of building the new NC State brand, it was important to understand the possibilities of how we could communicate ideas across platforms.

NC State’s brand, is built on consistency and flexibility. Its structure creates a strategic family of brands that support and advance one another and elevate the core brand. It allows each NC State unit to maintain a leadership position within its separate competitive marketplace.

NC State’s brand, is built on consistency and flexibility. Its structure creates a strategic family of brands that support and advance one another and elevate the core brand. It allows each NC State unit to maintain a leadership position within its separate competitive marketplace.

Preliminary Explorations - Immersive Impact

Through market research and internal consensus-building, it was agreed that NC State is uniquely positioned ahead of its peers brand in the following areas:

  • World-leading faculty at the forefront of interdisciplinary innovation
  • Cutting-edge, solution-driven research, technology and scholarship
  • Extensive partnerships with business, industry and government
  • Leader in experiential education

It only made sense that the university positioned its marketing materials to reflect these core brand drivers.

But how could we communicate this "Think and Do" attitude and reinforce these ideas to a wider audience in which we hoped to build a strong foundation of creating economic, societal and intellectual prosperity?

We needed vehicles that not only told our story, but by their very nature reflected this forward-thinking engagement through tactile technology that is reflective of the way NC State operates on a day-to-day basis.

 

time to move past the traditional ways of talking to people

"Researchers from NC State University have developed a technique for creating high-density ceramic materials that requires far lower temperatures than current techniques – and takes less than a second, as opposed to hours. Ceramics are used in a wide variety of technologies, including body armor, fuel cells, spark plugs, nuclear rods and superconductors."

This is a great story to tell. But how to get the word out in a meaningful experience?

The well most often visited by higher-education when it's time to talk to an audience is to go down the path of printed and digital advertising. So we started there.

Sketches for an exploratory magazine and digital ad.

Sketches for an exploratory magazine and digital ad.

We examined the broad topic of NC State's ceramics research and focused it into something that a wider-range audience could easily identify with, something they would see day to day on television, the internet, or even use themselves. In this case, a creation of a lighter, stronger body armor to protect military personnel. It was imperative to make the subject the real-world results of the research and not the tediousness of the academic lab jargon.

For this exploratory magazine ad, the philosophy behind our design conventions is simple: Let the content speak. Legibility and simplicity are the essence of the NC State approach to design. Function counts here, not flair. Like the faculty and students we spotlight, our goal is to clarify the complicated for our audiences.

Exploratory magazine advertisement.

Exploratory magazine advertisement.

Of course, the next stop on this traditional communication train is the creation of on-line advertising. The same approach of simplicity of content was taken with this as well.

Exploratory digital advertisement targeted to a military-based audience.

Exploratory digital advertisement targeted to a military-based audience.

This is all well and good, but there is no reason to stop here. Providing a user even clicks through the ad, most of these approaches will do something like link to a web-based feature story or throw the user into an open-ended homepage with not much else to do. And that would be the end of it.

But that's not how we mean for the brand to communicate through our messaging. We wanted push the user to take this clear and precise subject, become involved in the experience and understand how it connects back to the way NC State behaves as a whole.

 

We want something more immersive

It was time to take the next step.

We established that ceramics create better body armor. But how does NC State use its strength of interdisciplinary research to play into the life of this soldier?

Body-armor ceramics may have been the entry point, but we'd also like to talk about how NC State is working to equip this soldier as a whole. It was necessary to dissect this and reinforce how all of the colleges and research entities work together to improve economic, societal and intellectual prosperity.

The microcosmic example of this soldier becomes a macrocosm of explaining how NC State exemplifies "Think and Do" as a whole.

 

Digging deeper

So how does NC State work to better the well-being of the modern American military?

Examination of NC State's work to better the lives of soldiers, not just in the construction of their uniform and equipment, but in their education and professional ethics as well.

Examination of NC State's work to better the lives of soldiers, not just in the construction of their uniform and equipment, but in their education and professional ethics as well.

These are only a fraction of the ways that NC State's research is having real-world impact in this field:

  • Materials Science and Engineering at NC State are building better body armor through leading ceramics research.
  • Using the College of Humanities and Social Sciences to teach and immerse military officers and personnel in foreign languages and cultural understanding. Other concentrations that aid in intellectual development include International Studies, Political Science, Psychology, Social Work and History.
  • Through leadership instruction, programs like the Shelton Leadership Center and the Center for Student Leadership, Ethics & Public Service work to inspire, educate, and develop values-based leaders committed to personal integrity, professional ethics, and selfless service.
  • The NC State Department of Military Science also trains college men and women to become commissioned officers in the United States Army, Army National Guard, and United States Army Reserve, in addition to motivating young men and women through caring leadership and positive influence to be better citizens for life-long service to the community.
  • Working with the U.S. Army Research Office, researchers at the College of Textiles are designing military uniforms that will protect soldiers better by sensing and responding to the surroundings. The college’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center tests specialized fabrics on a flaming mannequin and in controlled climate conditions.

That's a lot to take in.

But there are ways to connect an audience and encourage them to examine NC State's work without overwhelming them all at once.

 

explore to engage

Tablet thumbnail sketches.

Tablet thumbnail sketches.

Using some of the above real-world impacts as catalysts for user exploration, a process began to best figure how to engage an audience in exploring NC State's influence on the life and well-being of the military.

Once again, we used a characteristic of NC State's brand to to influence the vehicle for storytelling.

Using the technology-rich immersion abilities of a tablet device, the audience was presented with a way to dive as deep into the content and to explore as many facets as the user wished to.

As previously, we decided to let the content speak for itself. While the user may have begun a journey investigating ceramics, they are allowed a chance to make their own choices and decisions based on a fluid sense of discovery.

 

Prototyping a tablet-based experience

 

Let's take this into a public space and start a conversation

How could we take this web-based experience and even further expound on it, maximizing the relationship between exploration and engagement in a life-sized environment?

Iterations and sketches of how an interactive web-based experience could be transformed into something larger and more lifelike.

Iterations and sketches of how an interactive web-based experience could be transformed into something larger and more lifelike.

We began by thinking about how an audience might interact with someone they were interested in. They would want to walk straight up to them, ask questions, get answers and feel as though they have actually gained something meaningful.

Of course it would be impractical to have a constant gathering of real-world individuals to field these inquiries, but there was no reason that we couldn't think about doing it virtually.

This would give us a chance to explore not one, but several different types of people you may meet in "your neighborhood" and understand not only the impact they have on the audiences' daily life, but how NC State is the constant connection between thought and action. Each drives the other, always moving together.

We think actively and act thoughtfully.

We invest in outcomes that serve the greater good. We pursue research with purpose. Our work results in clear, tangible, meaningful applications. We teach in order to make better thinkers who transform ideas into reality.

 

Breathing life into virtual interaction

Synthesis and wire frames of how a virtual person could instruct on NC State's impact on every day life using a scalable grid-based interaction.

Synthesis and wire frames of how a virtual person could instruct on NC State's impact on every day life using a scalable grid-based interaction.

It began with just a soldier in a tablet.

It grew into something much more complex, yet still approachable. We could build a community of people who could share their personal stories and how the cross-pollination of NC State's research enterprise reinforces our core message of of creating economic, societal and intellectual prosperity.

From these ideas, opportunities for an even more immersive experience began to develop.

Exploration of how the system that began on the tablet device was able to be scaled and expanded as the device's scale increased.

Exploration of how the system that began on the tablet device was able to be scaled and expanded as the device's scale increased.

As this idea of a creation of virtual community interactive began to evolve, there were necessary considerations to keep in mind.

  1. It should feel familiar, but open to possibility. Tho the user would be interacting on a flat space, it must always feel like there is a dimensionality and a tactile nature to the exploration. The human must feel a psychological warmth and fluidity in order to best stimulate the imagination.
  2. Design with purpose. Like NC State's brand, the interface must be bold and avoid unnecessary flourishes that would inhibit or intimidate the user to engage and learn more. A hierarchy of type, graphics and icons are imperative in the organization of telling the story. Spaces of content must be clearly delineated and purposeful.
  3. You are never lost. Interaction is simple, yet elegant and intuitive. A user should be able to clearly understand how to move from point A to point B to point C, and then back. Use of gesture and motion is important, not only to obtain information and to understand a given narrative, but also to feel total control over the experience.
 

Life, Realized

When the digital world is brought to life on a human scale, the effects are immediately personal.

Through imagination and constantly expanding our ideas of what learning is, we will discover amazing ways to demonstrate how we can Think and Do. We can go beyond the printed ad and build compelling, multi-platform campaigns.

Through imagination and constantly expanding our ideas of what learning is, we will discover amazing ways to demonstrate how we can Think and Do. We can go beyond the printed ad and build compelling, multi-platform campaigns.

Imagine that the people on the immersion tiles are standing there, lifelike and inviting.

Perhaps they have a subtle gait and loop that makes them feel like they are there, pleasantly awaiting you to interact and to ask them questions. When an audience can experience learning together in such a human scale, it becomes all the more immersive to the user.

A user should easily be able to peruse at their leisure, allowing their natural intellectual enjoyment to stimulate a deeper connection.

A user should easily be able to peruse at their leisure, allowing their natural intellectual enjoyment to stimulate a deeper connection.

Users are free to touch and explore. Data should be accessible and easily understood and sharable. There would be opportunity not only to input ideas into the system, share on social media, but the most important aspect would be the live conversations that the participants in the public space would have with one another.

Spurring action through thought is not only a key element in the brand of NC State, but it is critical to the intellectual growth of society.

From research in fire-resistant clothing to developments in translational medicine, there are always new ways to collaborate and think about how potentially unrelated ideas could provide breakthroughs in beautiful solutions. And it takes but one mind to be inspired and get curious.

From research in fire-resistant clothing to developments in translational medicine, there are always new ways to collaborate and think about how potentially unrelated ideas could provide breakthroughs in beautiful solutions. And it takes but one mind to be inspired and get curious.

This was but one road of exploration down a path of investigation into the impact of immersive exploration. It opened the doors to many people at NC State to postulate on how every aspect of our communications should connect thinking and doing. Make sure every choice — logo, font, color, language, design, imagery — is purposeful. We must show how NC State always combines thinking and doing in everything.

Using technology as a force for good. That is how we will solve global challenges and create economic, societal and intellectual prosperity.

"With more knowledge comes a deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries - certainly a grand adventure!"
- Richard Feynman, The Value of Science