Why the higher education sector needs design and brand engagement now more than ever.

The higher education landscape has a complex scenery. Brand savvy student consumers, changes to funding, and emerging economies are all having an impact. Check out our introduction below.


Providing the best education, state of the art institutions, and innovative research facilities are key in the race to build strong knowledge economies. The right level of investment within the education sector will be at the heart of its success ensuring that money is being spent in the right places, without losing the quality of teaching and the learning experience. This is where design and brand engagement comes in. What role can design play to bring focus to the learning experience? Is brand engagement key for institutions to engage their learners and encourage creativity? Can this also increase the level of investment for teaching and facilities?

Infographic Education INT CU 26 02 16


If we look at some of the biggest consumer brands today, such as Apple, we know that their success is underpinned by a great product, supplemented by a clever brand strategy that makes emotional connections with their customers. Positive perceptions of and attitudes about their brand correlate directly with the level of engagement from consumers, and as a result sales and profitability increase.

When we look at education providers, and the challenges they face in a world of increasing competition, we realise that their challenges are no different to Apple's: the customer is king. It’s brand perception that impacts customer's decision-making: whether parents, students,  partners or the wider community.


First impressions count. The learning environment, brand presence, and facilities of an education provider impact their power to attract the best talent and investment. Old-style concrete block lecture rooms or poorly maintained campuses, coupled with outdated identities or disengaged staff, will drive students away and provide barriers, not only to recruitment but also to learning. The environment and identity need to reflect the fact that the educational establishment is a community of diverse individuals of different ages, backgrounds, cultures, life experiences, abilities, needs and aspirations.

Providers have to build an identity that represents this diversity and vision through strong brand presence and an inclusive and engaging environment to learn in.


Having a clear brand strategy ensures a clear message is communicated to the wider world, attracting the attention of like-minded individuals who may want to invest in the business or become future customers. Aligning key learning objectives alongside the overall vision clearly communicates the goals and investment within the institution, one which creates a positive perception of the brand.

A strong identity is reinforced by the values and mission that it represents, how these are followed through by leadership and immersed into the culture of the organisation, its people and environment. What can be more effective than translating these messages and assets across all touchpoints, ensuring engagement across all levels within the learning environment? We can summarise brand needs under these three core foundations, all of which capture the essence of a great learning experience.

  • BRAND - capturing the vision through a clear brand strategy.
  • PEOPLE - aligning teachers and students with the brand values and mission.
  • ENVIRONMENT - translating the brand strategy across the whole physical environment.


Every single touchpoint engages or disengages a user when it comes to branded interactions. To that end, the learning experience must adapt to and reflect the needs of students. That has implications in a number of areas:

  • Designing spaces The quality of the space designed for engaging students.
  • Brand application Translating brand across the external and internal spaces.
  • Wayfinding Ensuring ease of navigation for a seamless customer journey.


...design is an important tool in delivering the changes required within any institution. With the increase in global competition, increasing diversity and changing worldwide needs, we need to reconsider how these organisations connect with their ‘customers.’ This requires a clear brand strategy, which makes the vision tangible through well-designed buildings and spaces, alongside providing high-value, high-quality education.

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