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Higher education is changing: students are seeking personalized, real-world experiences for their future careers, and schools are struggling to differentiate themselves. Small, private schools like Philadelphia University (PhilaU) were getting lost in the clamor of the city’s many institutions and health sciences universities like Thomas Jefferson (TJU) were pushing for national recognition. To address this and offer a more dynamic educational experience, the universities merged, and turned to us to help future-proof their combined academic program.
Philadelphia University (PhilaU), a small private school, needed to scale its distinctive approach to education—Nexus Learning. Across town, health sciences leader Thomas Jefferson University (TJU) was pushing for national recognition. Both universities identified an opportunity to leverage their individual strengths in architecture, business, design, fashion, engineering, health, medicine, science and textiles, as well as their shared emphasis on experiential education and the principles of design thinking, to meet their respective goals. They decided to create a single institution that would redefine and revolutionize education with collaborative, hands-on practice while fostering transdisciplinary learning.
While the two schools shared a similar teaching philosophy, the subjects their students were learning differed in many ways. TJU was a health sciences university, while PhilaU’s expertise ranged from engineering to fashion design to health sciences. As part of the merger, there were concerns about each institution maintaining its areas of specialty as a combined university.
Further complicating the merger was the possibility that one of the two schools’ set of students, faculty, alumni, and donors may lose their school’s name. It would be necessary to deliver a singular brand that these diverse groups could rally around. A brand that would capture where they had been, and where they were going.
FutureBrand realized that in order for this new higher education institution to be accepted, each side needed to see itself in the integrated university. We united the institution under one name—Jefferson— and created a logo and visual identity that honored each school’s history while signaling a unified mission for real-world education.
We conducted qualitative and quantitative studies with alumni, faculty, current and prospective students to understand the names that resonated with each of these audiences. Overall, "Thomas Jefferson University" held the most appeal, providing the foundation for a stronger brand, as well as the potential for building a reputation on a national and international stage. We shortened the name to the more colloquial “Jefferson” to keep the focus on the school’s areas of excellence, instead of its namesake.
The resulting brand reflects the new university's vision and reinforces its multidisciplinary excellence, balancing their past areas of specialty with a clear mission. And the new positioning—"redefining humanly possible"— and brand architecture brings clarity to Jefferson’s vast portfolio of studies. Today, the consolidated Jefferson fosters collaboration across disciplines with university leaders, research centers, and industry partners to address the global opportunities society is facing now and into the future. It’s this collaboration that gives the University its competitive advantage.
Jefferson’s new visual identity signifies a new, forward-facing university that combines the best of its two predecessors' offerings. The visual system flexes seamlessly across applications while thoughtfully considering how it will come to life across specific touchpoints. An improved color palette incorporates shades from each original school, and its primary blue highlights the university’s professionalism and future focus. The goal of the merger was to be perceived on a global scale—the visual expression clearly achieves this by adapting easily across a variety of languages.
Both schools wanted a logo that expressed innovation and integration. The shield, an emblem commonly associated with both top-tier colleges and cutting-edge health centers, accomplishes the former. Executing the second goal, however, took more nuance. The shield forms the letter J, a nod to the new name. But within the negative space of the shield is the letter P—an homage to Philadelphia University, which, despite the name change, is an equal part of the unified school.
Jefferson unveiled its new name in May, with plans to continue its structural rollout over the next three years. The merger makes Jefferson the fifth-largest school in Philadelphia. The school’s codified brand architecture, flexible visual identity, and inclusive name signal a fresh, forward thinking vision to students who share this future-focused ethos. The new school is uniquely positioned to contribute on an increasingly large stage, with President Dr. Stephen Klasko sharing Jefferson “will re-imagine education and discovery to create unparalleled value.”