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Building a University Brand from the Ground Up

Dreaming of a transformative institution

For decades, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia had dreamed of founding a world-class research university that would transform the Middle East. In 2009, that dream became a reality, in the form of KAUST: the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

From day one, the King was determined for KAUST to be regarded as a leading educational institution of the world; one that attracts top international students and researchers. Quickly achieving this level of credibility and appeal would require a bold, inspirational brand strategy.

A brand built on a rich intellectual heritage

In the spirit of the Islamic Golden Age, we crafted a brand position based on three principles—Unity, Clarity and Transformation—and established voice and value attributes around the positioning, "Inspiring a new age of scientific achievement."

We then began the visual representation of the brand with a logo that captures the school's spirit of optimism, collaboration and love of wisdom. Four organic shapes representing the four research thrusts of the school (Energy and Environment, Biosciences, Materials Science and Engineering, and Applied Mathematics and Computational Science) are linked by a series of linear lenses that symbolize transparency and interconnectedness.

Finally, in an unusually rich and rewarding implementation, we developed the brand experience framework for KAUST's entire 4,000-acre campus, naming the town itself Safaa (Arabic for "clarity") and developing a dual-language naming masterplan for every street, park and neighborhood in the complex.

Launching a new kind of global university

While the reputations of most top universities have developed gradually over centuries, KAUST burst into academia with great acclaim—attracting high-caliber students and distinguished faculty. KAUST now partners and competes with the best educational institutions in the world.

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