125 Years. One Word.

Branding and design work for Central Washington University

The brand. Inside and outside the meeting room.

Central Washington University (CWU) approached Pyramid looking for a refined brand and anniversary logo leading up to their 125th in 2015. Their goal: attract more locally-based students able to pay full tuition—to support overall enrollment but even more importantly, their ability to deliver on the university’s long-term commitment to financially supporting a diverse student body.

After a productive launch meeting, we conducted a communications materials audit, interviews and focus groups with administration and students. One of us even went undercover, signing up as a potential student for a campus tour. We wanted to get a clear and complete sense of the CWU brand—the one inside the meeting rooms, and the one walking down the hallways and in the cafeteria.

A search for the essence.

After the discovery process, things became clear and the challenge was bigger than expected. Our research showed that 9 out of 10 potential applicants had heard of CWU, but didn’t know how to describe it. Before beginning our work on messaging or design, we needed to create—or help CWU find—their own core essence.



Seeing through the students’ eyes.

While analyzing competing universities’ communications, a few things stood out:

  • They tend to talk (or write) a lot. Too much. More than enough. Like we just did.
  • They utilize taglines that seem to be telling students what to do or what kind of lives to live. While the intention may be good, they seem to forget that potential students also happen to be human beings who are experiencing a very stressful period in their lives.
  • Universities have long lists of things they want to say—and no matter how valuable those can be—they end up focusing too heavily on themselves and less on what their potential students seek.

Simple. Powerful. Memorable.

As we were working on different brand positioning options, a simple idea started to emerge. Not just a word, but a feeling…a concept memorable and broad enough to unite all that CWU had to offer as a University—Welcome.

Welcome. A tagline that conveyed CWU and Ellensburg’s down-to-earth, inviting attitude, while capturing CWU’s commitment to inclusion and deeper support and attention from professors.

With a simple concept, in just seven letters, we were also setting CWU apart.

Design with meaning.

With a strong concept in mind, our designers translated this new position into a visual language that included black and white candid photography, the traditional CWU red paired with bright colors, friendly fonts, and a supporting graphic element of concentric, embracing circles. These layered circles represented a community, with an opening inviting people in. 

Solid brand, solid results.

In just the first year following the brand refinement, the collaboration with CWU’s team resulted in:


Who was involved

See more of our clients in Education

Central Washington University
Education Commission of the States, Strong Start to Strong Finish
Greater Tacoma Community Foundation
Higher Education Coordinating Commission of Oregon
Partnership for Learning
Sheri and Les Biller Foundation
The Dream.US
Thrive Washington
University of Washington

Want to see more?

View all our work