Cranfield University

Cranfield University brand photo showing fighter pilot in breathing apparatus and helmet, alongside new Cranfield university logo
Cranfield University
Brand architecture
Stakeholder engagement
Visual identity
Brand positioning
Brand guidelines
Universities and HE

Cranfield University is a postgraduate and research-based university specialising in science, engineering, technology and management. Cranfield commissioned IE Brand to rebrand the university.

Based at a former RAF site in Bedfordshire, Cranfield started life in 1946 as a pioneering College of Aeronautics. In 1969, it had become a renowned Institute of Technology, and by the early 1990s it was granted university status. Seventy years on, the university felt it was time to raise awareness of the Cranfield brand, and tell the next chapter of their story.

IE Brand proposed a 4-step process to research, refine, reposition and re-express the Cranfield brand. 


Transform Awards Europe Gold Winners logo

Cranfield University new logo roundel shown as chrome building signage, and branded banner stands
Step 1 - Brand audit and audience mapping
Brand audit and audience mapping

IE Brand began the project with a brand audit, to establish a baseline measure of how Cranfield communicates – how it looks, sounds and behaves – and a map was drawn to capture and illustrate Cranfield’s convoluted brand architecture. 

Audience mapping was undertaken and gap analysis research methodologies employed to measure inconsistencies between internal/external and desired/actual audience perceptions. IE Brand undertook 70 one-hour qualitative interviews with key internal and external stakeholders. Using a Repertory Grid interview approach, IE was able to generate an audience-centric ‘mental map’ of the competitive environment, enabling Cranfield to explore the most distinct, advantageous market position that it could occupy.

IE supplemented this qualitative research with an invitation to each and every one of the university’s students to contribute to a university wide quantitative survey.

New Cranfield brand identity
"Congratulations on such a successful first engagement with the wider consultative group last Thursday. Your presentation was first class, and an excellent example of engaging this particular audience. Well done and thank you. This was a big and important hurdle, and we now have a good platform from which to progress."
Professor Sir Peter Gregson FREng MRIA - Chief Executive and Vice Chancellor
Cranfield Brand guidelines
Step 2 - Advise
Brand architecture & proposition

Having concluded our research, we shared our findings with Cranfield. IE Brand had reached out to scores of stakeholders: learners, partners, clients, and staff.

We’d asked 'What makes Cranfield special?' And we heard:

  • Applied, ‘real world’ research
  • Proximity to industry
  • Exclusively postgraduate offering
  • Unique people and facilities
  • The ability to take ideas from concept to delivery

IE's advice was that Cranfield could comfortably claim to be:


Industry’s University

We also found that Cranfield needed to increase its visibility. That it had become siloed and lost some of its confidence along the way…

A new brand architecture was devised, with Cranfield’s eight industry specific themes at its heart, and was awarded GOLD at the Transform Awards Europe for the "Best Brand Architecture Solution". Cranfield already had a Pole Star to guide them. IE translated research findings into a positioning statement, brand personality, tone of voice, core values and a set of key messages, which were arrived at through a series of workshops. All these outputs were then tested and socialised around the university in close collaboration with Cranfield’s internal MarComms team.

Watch the video

IE Brand's MD OIlie Leggett interviewed Maddie McGowan, Director of Marketing, Communications and Development at Cranfield University about the stakeholder engagement process. Filmed at the CASE Europe Annual Conference

Cranfield brand architecture diagram
Cranfield flags on campus
Step 3 - Deliver
Visual identity and logo design

With a new brand story in place, IE Brand’s next job was to bring it to life through design.

During our research, we heard from stakeholders that Cranfield’s visual identity was tired and dated and that we should take inspiration from Cranfield’s history, in order to shape its future.

So we looked at the RAF roundel – a marque of distinction and a symbol of power. And from it, the Cranfield roundel was born. A bold letter 'C' enclosed in a circle. The perfect symbol for a global brand.

The roundel is a window, through which we see the worlds of technology, management and leadership. And we call this Cranfield’s Organisational Brand – it’s how Cranfield will go to market.

There are eight additional variations of the new logo. One for each of their specialisms. To complement the roundel, we built a supporting visual identity. One based around bold and vibrant colours – representing Cranfield’s energy and renewed confidence.

And there’s still a place for Cranfield’s historic crest, as an Institutional Marque – reserved for formal occasions. Cranfield’s past and its future – working side by side.

Cranfield campus
IE Brand’s careful listening, their insightful analysis of market research, their pragmatism, their profound understanding of the importance of internal engagement and their willingness to work in close partnership with Cranfield’s own in-house MarComms team have all combined to deliver widespread support for a challenging project with high quality creative outcomes.
Madeleine McGowan - Director of Marketing, Communications and Development
Cranfield Long
Step 4 - Support
Brand Guidelines

Once presented, evolved and approved, IE Brand’s visual identity work for Cranfield was translated into an 80 page brand guidelines document to police and protect the brand.

IE began working closely with Cranfield’s in-house design team to transfer ownership and responsibility for the new brand – ensuring they were supported to work with the new identity and integrate the new messaging. We remain on call to support the brand post launch.

When the new brand launched, Cranfield created a short animation to illustrate the process that led to the eventual new brand. You can watch the Cranfield video here

So, the university has a new story. A story that IE Brand, the university, and its many stakeholders has helped to write. Another chapter in the rich history of Cranfield.

New brand architecture based around eight industry-specific go-to-market themes
GOLD at Transform Awards Europe for "Best Brand Architecture Solution"
80 page brand guidelines document to police and protect the new brand