Following more than a year of research, discovery, analysis, and design, the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith launched its new brand Wednesday, April 21, 2021, with a ceremonial flag-raising and celebration on the campus green. UAFS chancellor, Dr. Terisa Riley, joined Chris Kelly, director of marketing and communications to speak to the importance of this moment in the university’s history.
“I am so thrilled to raise a flag in honor of the incredible work our marketing and communications team has done over the past year,” said Riley. “As we look at our new, sophisticated lion, we are reminded of the journey of every Lion. We look forward toward the future, standing tall and proud. We are rooted here in the river valley, and our foundation is firm. We know our worth, and we respect the value of every lion in our pride.”
The new UAFS logo features a lion with a forward gaze and full mane standing atop a stone foundation with a river of negative space, reminiscent of the river valley that is the university’s home. Below the lion is a new alignment of the university name in a bold serif font, the University of Arkansas above, and Fort Smith in large print below, reflecting both the boldness of the institution’s place in the University of Arkansas System, and the rich history and unique importance of the city of Fort Smith in its legacy.
“But this brand launch is about so much more than a logo.” Riley continued. “This new brand, and our new marketing campaign, will help us tell our story across the state and nation. I say it every time I’m out in our community or talking to prospective families – I truly don’t know why anyone would go to school anywhere but here, and I can’t wait to empower everyone on our campus to thoughtfully, strategically, express the things that make the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith so special.”
In August 2020, the university partnered with Vision Point Marketing, a professional branding and marketing agency with a singular focus and dedication to the higher education sphere, to refine the university’s message, voice, and brand.
“We began this process with the goal of identifying what UAFS stands for,” said Kelly, “and that work begins with listening. We went directly to our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our community, to those who make this university such a special place and we asked them to share their stories. We asked about their experiences, the faculty who changed their lives, the staff who walked beside them every step of the way, and the institution that brought jobs, growth, and innovation to their town. And then we set to work processing what we heard.”
Through both qualitative analysis and quantitative research, the university collected stories, thoughts, and opinions from more than 1200 individuals, including more than 300 current students, more than 500 UAFS alumni from all stages of the institution’s history, more than 150 faculty and staff, and more than 200 unaffiliated community members from both the River Valley and Northwest Arkansas regions, as well as members from the university’s advisory boards and prospective high school students.
From this research, the university and its agency worked together to create cohesive messages based on the truest lived experiences and grandest dreams of its community.
“Through this process, the UAFS brand came to life,” explained Kelly. “Every brand pillar is based upon the collective experiences and vision of our campus and community members. Not only are these pillars rooted in research, but they also came directly from our Lions. This rebrand will serve as the foundation of what UAFS stands for now and into the future. It is not a campaign that will change in a year or two. It’s something permanent upon which we will continue to build well into the future,”
“We know our place in the global higher education landscape is to serve students who are both thinkers and doers,” said Riley. “We know that the caring, empowering, encouraging atmosphere created by the dedicated faculty and staff at UAFS is unique and that the students who choose to earn their degrees with us go on to have endless options and opportunities in their future. And we know that this very place is special, that our campus truly is the Pride of Arkansas, where wildly successful students can find their roar.”
More information about the UAFS rebranding initiative and the new UAFS graphic standards manual may be found at https://uafslions.org/brand.