University of Chicago Gagliardi Group: Establishing a Brand Identity

In 2021, Clarity completed and launched a website design on behalf of University of Chicago Gagliardi Group, a collective comprised of graduate and postdoctoral research fellows engaged in molecular chemistry and engineering.

Due to our experience working with clients such as the Cook County Assessor’s Office, Clarity went into the project with experience creating new logos, branding, colors, and design elements.  We knew how to establish a brand identity.  But there was a caveat: we had to work within existing brand guidelines while also establishing an identity that could outlast the Group’s affiliation with University of Chicago.

Identifying the Needs

As a semi-independent research group within University of Chicago’s Department of Chemistry, the Gagliardi Group conducts research in the global scientific community and engages with other non-academic sectors, funding agencies, and recruits.  As a result, the Group has a public-facing aspect, in which its website plays a critical role for its broader community engagement, promotion, and branding.

The original site design had no Gagliardi Group-specific brand identity.  So the new site needed it all: an independent logo, branding, colors, and niche, customized design elements.

Most importantly, the new design elements needed to strike a balance.  They needed to carve out an identity while still following current, University of Chicago guidelines.

Maroon is the University of Chicago’s signature color. We added Teal as a unique element of the Gagliardi brand.

Technically Speaking

The technical goals included a site overhaul, including design, user interface, and user experience updates such as new layout, navigation, and images.  The new site needed to be more appealing to the specific, intended audiences:

  • Prospective graduate students/fellows
  • Colleagues
  • Greater university
  • Granting entities
  • Partner groups/institutions

The specific University of Chicago branding guidelines were minimal.  This left room to add visual appeal and unique branding.

Clarity’s Execution

The Logo & Color Palette

Step 1: Early ideas and discussions
We didn’t start with visuals. We started with asking questions, doing research, and working to document and understand what the group represents.  We created a logo questionnaire that was sent around to all stakeholders as well as students involved with the group.  Responses yielded a common scientific shape to be used to represent the group.

Step 2: Narrowing in and refinements
The original shape was complex.  We reduced it to the most recognizable elements to make sure it was recognizable and unique.  We then added colors to the logo, starting with the University of Chicago’s primary palette.  We enhanced the palette by adding a set of secondary pops of color to make it unique to the group.

Step 3: Final refinements
After finalizing the logo, we added two iterations that were right and left aligned.  This gave the client flexibility when designing assets such as such as letter heads, presentations, brochures, business cards, and large signs.

The Icons

Clarity created a full set of customized icons for the Group.  Each icon represented a complex, scientific research area.  We used images provided by the Group and went through several iterations to make sure each one was acutely representative of each concept.

Additional Custom Development

The new site is WordPress.  The Group now has customer functionality for the directory and publication sections.  They also have custom components for display variations that can be used on all site pages.  The current site can be used as a template for any site the Group may want to build in the future.

Branded & Ready

The Gagliardi Group now has its own brand – one that is adjacent to its parent organization, but unique enough to stand out as its own entity.   If there’s a move beyond University of Chicago, the brand will stay intact.  And they have all the tools to continue updating their site as the Group continues to evolve and grow.

Since the launch, Clarity has been recognized for several awards for the site’s new design.