Our work for Nexus

The University of Limerick (UL) established a new, on-campus innovation centre to facilitate collaboration between entrepreneurs and the University, to form and grow new, mainly technology, companies. The centre has meeting rooms, shared spaces, and exhibition and training spaces.

The University had a clear vision, values set and positioning requirement for the innovation centre and needed a name and brand that would work in harmony with the UL master brand. BFK were commissioned to create a name and develop a brand identity for the new centre. 

Naming

The objective was to create a name that would communicate a dynamic, creative new businesses environment and to represent the process of transformation from business idea to working reality. As Innovation Centre manager Andrea Deverell said, ‘interesting work is occurring at the blurring of boundaries between a variety of different disciplines’. Like all good names, it was also important that the name could be the basis of a story or narrative that would give it relevance and meaning for stakeholders.

We used the tried and tested BFK naming process based on a detailed naming plan, brainstorming with our client, filtering, analysis and availability checking to produce a shortlist of candidate names for the University’s final selection and approval.

The outcome was Nexus – a means of connection, a link, a core, a central focal point, a network or a union. Nexus maps directly to the original objective and represents the very core of the innovation centre idea.

Brand identity creation

Having selected the name the next phase was the design of the brand mark. The challenge was to capture successfully the essence of the brand, the story of Nexus, into one singular mark.

After in-depth exploratory work during which we evaluated many creative possibilities, one particular approach quickly came to the fore. It was based on a combination of a strong visual symbol working in tandem with robust typography.

The symbol, which is the core focal point, is based on the spark of creativity that occurs at the start of a collaboration—in this instance the partnership between entrepreneurs and the Nexus Innovation Centre. It represents the germination, the formation, the burst of an idea or project. A series of colourful circles are arranged in concentric pattern, emanating and radiating outwards from one central point into an ever expanding circular shape. This circular nexus represents a creative energy, communicating a sense of expansion and momentum. At the core there is an open space which represents the unknown aspect of the process… the end result is never known until the collaboration begins. We used a rainbow of different colours throughout the strands which radiate outwards.

A strong, simple typographic style underpins the mark. The choice and placement of the type was specifically chosen to work in sympathy with the symbol and not to dominate the mark. Both elements are positioned within a black surrounding box that contains this energy, reflecting the controlled environment in which this energy occurs.

For the flexibility needed in day-to-day use we created both horizontal and vertical lock-up versions of the brand mark. The Nexus symbol can also be used as a free-standing graphic device outside the confines of surrounding box, showing the full burst of energy.

Studio-to-Street Branding Programme

Studio-to-Street is a programme devised by Nexus, the innovation centre of the University of Limerick, to fast-track start-up companies. It consists of modules covering areas such as strategic planning, finance and marketing.

Objectives

BFK devised and delivered the Studio to Street two-week branding module to introduce participating companies to the principles and practice of branding and to give them the tools they will need to develop their brands as their businesses grow and respond to market needs.

Programme structure

Eight companies participated in this highly interactive programme, which was configured to run over two full weeks with a break in the middle during which participants were expected to undertake research, evaluation and planning for the second stage. Our concept was that participants would learn about naming and branding by doing most of the work for their own companies themselves under the direction and guidance of BFK’s experts and also through peer interaction.

Week One: Brand theory and naming

Week One consisted of an introduction to branding – what it is, why it matters, how it is done, case studies and examples – followed by individual company name generation. The proven BFK naming process was the basis of this phase. Participants were shown how to check names for domain and other availability, a task to be undertaken by each during the break before week two.

Week Two: Creating brand identities

Having completed Week One each company had a name and now needed a visual expression of their brand to enable a successful business start up. We condensed the creation of brand identities into one intense, week-long, design session. We worked on-site in Nexus with the eight companies creating design concepts for each, reviewing exploratory work and finally refining the chosen solutions.

The outcome

Each start-up company ended the programme with a bespoke name and brand mark that identifies them clearly and gives them the basis for establishing a strong presence in their market. Perhaps more importantly, each company now has a real understanding of brand, its value to their business and how they can manage and develop it over the coming years.

The event concluded with an elevator pitch from each participating start-up to describe their new branding and explain how they would use it in developing their business.

Feedback from the participants was very positive. The start-ups enjoyed the collaborative, hands on, working process and they agree that Studio-to-Street gave them a valuable insight into how brands deliver sustainable business value.