Students’ Union UCL: A new brand and website

In late 2016, we were commissioned by the students’ union at UCL to undertake a rebranding and website redevelopment project. With over 38,000 members, the Union was struggling to engage the student body and present a clear and consistent message about their services, purpose and impact. Through the project, they wanted to give their members something they could connect with and truly feel proud to be part of.

This work began with an intensive and wide-ranging research phase, involving more than a thousand students from across UCL, as well as Union staff and university stakeholders. We carried out surveys, interviews, focus groups, message testing, and observational research to determine exactly what students thought about the Union and its relationship with the student body.

Knowing there was a long-standing concern around lack of engagement with the Union, we were able to incorporate previously-gathered data from UCL’s own student records to enable us to segment our research findings to an enhanced degree.

Armed with our research findings, we developed a new brand proposition – and new name – for the organisation. UCLU became Students’ Union UCL, placing students front and centre, and ensuring the difference between the Union and the university was clearer.

We then developed a messaging framework to define the Union’s new personality and values, an overarching content strategy, and a new information architecture for an improved website, raising in profile content about the Union’s impact. We also crafted content for new sections of the site to facilitate launch.

To help us bring the new brand to life, we brought in Beth Elzer Design to develop a new visual identity for Students’ Union UCL, and Lighthouse to design a new website ready for welcoming new students in August 2017.

Working collaboratively and in close partnership, we were able to launch the new brand on time, with the Union team incorporating web and social media, printed and digital campus signage, print material, photography, clothing and merchandise. We created detailed brand and editorial guidelines to help ensure everyone in the Union was able to implement the new identity easily, and then trained in-house departmental brand champions on implementing the content strategy.

In the three months following launch, the Union team had already seen an increase in student engagement with volunteering fair attendance up 17%, club and society membership up 11%, and voter participation in rep elections up a staggering 637%.



“We couldn’t be happier with how our rebranding project went with Pickle Jar. From beginning to end everyone at Pickle Jar were enthusiastic, friendly and extremely knowledgeable about all areas of the broad areas of work that went into such an important project for us. Their initial research project was so thorough and insightful we have also been able to use their findings to inform the overall strategy for the Union for the next three years. With this in place alongside our new brand, as we turn 125 years old, the future of Students’ Union UCL is looking great!

The spring elections are a significant annual event in the Union’s calendar, where all students vote to elect the Union’s student leaders. This year, we’ve recorded a 43% increase in the number of students voting, up from 4,729 in 2017 to 6,763 in 2018, the highest ever number of students voting in an election at UCL. More students voting is evidence of a better overall understanding the Union’s campaigning and democratic functions amongst our members with a more effective brand to communicate them. – Alex Mckee, Head of Student Engagement and Communication, Student’s Union UCL

Talk to us if you’d like help with rebranding or website redevelopment projects at your school, college or university.

  • Students' Union UCL
  • Late 2016

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