Washington University in St. Louis Libraries

Flexibility for the Future

Branding an Academic Research Library System


As Washington University focused on expanding research, the WashU Libraries’ role as a critical component in future success was also growing. A new brand helped them communicate clearly as a system with 13 unique members.



The role of academic research libraries has been evolving quickly as more and more data and information is generated in our hyper-connected world. Libraries become partners to students and academics, helping guide research and bringing data and information to life through experience, scholarship and relationship-building. In the wake of changing work and expectations, WashU Libraries was ready for a dynamic brand that clearly united all members of its system.


As research moves away from the pages in a book and toward online databases and digital labs, creating a flexible brand that worked equally well digitally and in traditional media was key. Through our discovery process we found the common thread that unites all 13 libraries--the pursuit of possibilities. We then translated this idea to a brand identity and messaging construct that each individual library could own while still building the overall brand.

Libraries’ Staff are the Resource

Because a successful brand is built on a foundation of collaboration and insight from key stakeholders, we facilitated several interactive sessions that brought staff, faculty and student employees together. The resulting conversations brought to light the knowledge, innovation and passions that live within the libraries.

Pursue What’s Possible

The Pursue What’s Possible tagline is a call-to-action that sparks engagement across the Libraries’ system. Using an active and modifiable tagline, one that plays on the analog use of a highlighter in a book as well as the digital typing inside a search bar, the brand showcases the different topic areas of each library and the potential of what’s to come.

An Evolving Brand

The brand identity was created with a digital-first focus using colors that stand out on screens coupled with a highlighter effect to draw attention to specific topics, click-thrus and calls-to-action. Because the individual libraries also had very specific needs with more traditional materials like newsletters and event flyers, we created easily modifiable templates that could be used by individual Libraries while still building the overall brand.


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