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  • Jade Griffin

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  • Jade Griffin

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Brand New

UC San Diego breaks boundaries in new branding campaign


Shakeboarding—a virtual reality experience based on UC San Diego technology that allows students to simulate surfing, experience an earthquake and wipe out—all on dry land. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Our campus is brimming with great minds who are innovative and entrepreneurial, willing to break concepts, ideas—and even things—apart, just to put them back together again in a way that makes the world a better place.

To articulate UC San Diego’s unparalleled uniqueness in the community and across the globe, and to generate increased mindshare and visibility in advance of the public celebration of the $2 billion fundraising campaign, the campus recently launched a new brand campaign. Prompted in part by the recommendation of some of the university’s closest community leaders, the effort marks the first all-encompassing project of its kind for UC San Diego. The new brand features the theme “Break Things Better,” designed to communicate our university’s unconventional distinctiveness.

Likely, you have already seen elements of the new brand in action, with a new homepage and banners around campus, or you may have spotted eye-catching UC San Diego advertisements in The New York Times and the Southwest Airlines in-flight magazine, or signage in terminals at the San Diego International Airport. And that’s just the start.

“UC San Diego has created a new brand identity to enhance recognition, distinction and unification of our campus locally, nationally and worldwide,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “This effort advances the priority set in our Strategic Plan to increase awareness of UC San Diego’s broad impact.”

But what is a brand? It isn’t just a tagline or a logo. Our brand is our reputation, built on the way we speak, the way we act, the experiences that our students and visitors have on campus. Every person on campus—and the work they do—help make up the UC San Diego brand.

As part of the development and launch of the branding campaign, the campus surveyed students, faculty, staff, alumni, donors and friends regarding their views about the campus. Responses included comments such as, “UC San Diego is a place for iconoclasts, people who want to improve things by breaking the rules.” A student stated, “It’s a place to explore the areas that excite you in the most creative ways.”


MiPs, two-wheeled self-balancing toy robots created with technology developed by UC San Diego professor Thomas Bewley.

Bringing the Brand to Life

As a member of the campus community, how will the new campaign affect you? It will offer an opportunity for UC San Diego to become more integrated and cohesive in all our initiatives—from recruiting bright students and world-renowned faculty to telling our story through UC San Diego publications and advertisements.

To build a solid foundation for the new brand, University Communications and Public Affairs (UCPA) focused first on internal communications to help promote consistency of look and feel throughout campus. Tactics included:

Brand Guidelines

To create a consistent look and feel for the campus, Brand Guidelines were developed with guidance on imagery, color palettes, logos and templates. A resource for campus marketing professionals, academic and administrative staff, the guidelines will help ensure a coordinated “one university” look. Visit for the guidelines and other tools. Email with questions or for additional guidance.

UC San Diego Website

The UC San Diego homepage is often the first touch new audiences have with UC San Diego. Research showed that the majority of visitors were prospective students, their families and other admissions-information seekers. With this in mind, the homepage was overhauled in partnership with Workplace Technology Services, and designed to reflect the energy that defines UC San Diego. Faculty and staff can still find internal information, online tools and the campus directory at Blink.

“Break Things Better” Landing Page

As part of the advertising efforts, the campus also launched a special landing page at to further tell our story. The web content focuses on the types of minds we attract, like associate professor in Ethnic Studies Dayo Gore, who reshaped our understanding of history by unearthing a network of radical African-American female activists dating back to the 1930s. Meanwhile, Paul Neihaus, associate professor in Economics, is using cell phones to bypass outmoded charity models in developing nations and providing cash directly to their citizens.

Brand Video

Featuring the campus as it has never been seen before, a new video uses a surreal, animated approach to speak to the imagination and out-of-the-box thinking that makes UC San Diego so unique. The video features original music composed by faculty member Lei Liang and performed by Steven Shick. You may have also seen the video on your Facebook news feed. Find the video here, and share it on social media with the hashtag #BreakThingsBetter!

Campus Banners

If you’ve walked through campus recently, you probably noticed the new “Break Things Better” themed banners with “breaking-inspired” idioms—from “Break the Mold” to “Break Through”—that represent UC San Diego’s tradition of pushing boundaries, challenging expectations and redefining conventional wisdom. Have an idea for a future “break” banner? Send them to

Fall Media Campaign

In addition to rolling out the new brand on campus, UCPA has launched a media campaign that is designed to inform, intrigue and entice members of the general public to seek out more information on UC San Diego.


Print and Digital Advertising

“Engaging,” “creative” and “provocative” are all adjectives that have been used to describe the new UC San Diego ads, which have appeared nationally. Designed to “cut through the noise” of other ads, the messaging reinforces our campus character by artistically highlighting some of our boundary-breaking researchers—from Robert Brill in Theatre to Rachel Dutton in Biological Sciences. The Break Things Better landing page features more information on each of the faculty members from the ads.

San Diego International Airport

The new brand campaign concept was also featured last month in banners at the San Diego International Airport. Keep an eye out this spring when the banners, which feature a similar look and feel of the print ads, will reappear. The idea? To inspire San Diegans and visitors to learn more about what we do here at UC San Diego.

UC San Diego Blue Line Trolleys

Bringing the new branding into the local community, UC San Diego will soon unveil six city trolley wraps that reflect the boundary-breaking brand campaign. The UC San Diego-branded trolleys will run throughout the county. See the sidebar for more information on the Oct. 15 celebration and reveal.

As time goes on, you will no doubt notice more materials, events and social media activities that reflect our exciting new brand. Through this new campaign, we are all reminded that together we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place.

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