The brightest choose Waterloo. That’s because being original and innovative infuses everything we do.
The imagery we use reflects that mentality too. Imagery shows the world who we are as a brand. When designed with our values in mind, it has the power to evoke strong emotions, create a mood, strengthen an idea, and even say a thousand words.
When selecting imagery, keep in mind the following guiding principles that apply to any image style, from photography to illustration:
- Keep it original — Always avoid generic imagery. If it looks like something you pulled from the first few pages of a Google image search, it isn’t right for Waterloo.
- Immerse viewers in the experience — Frame imagery in a way that makes viewers feel part of the action. That means no staged poses or extreme angles.
- Highlight real-world impact — Choose brand imagery that clearly illustrates how Waterloo is making a positive difference in the world.
- Illustrate high-level ideas — Illustrations should focus on supporting the story by communicating compelling ideas rather than technical details.
- Experiment with fresh approaches — Try incorporating cutting-edge imagery techniques where appropriate. A fresh approach can communicate innovation just as much as a story’s content.
Our image style incorporates photography, generative renders, illustration, infographics and symbols. We use these styles both independently and in combination to create compelling brand visuals.
Expand the following sections to view guidelines for using each type of image.
The most powerful photography stops viewers in their tracks. That’s because it communicates a wholly original point-of-view, making audiences think, question and want to learn more.
The goal of brand photography is to convey messages about who we are, what we do and why we matter, capturing our tone and personality and making our stories shine more vividly. Follow these guidelines when capturing or selecting photographs.
Feature authentic experiences
Showcase true and realistic moments where the subjects are engaged in what is happening. While candid photos are usually best, there are some instances in which having the subject look at the camera adds value (e.g., to create connection with an individual being profiled).
Show our work in context
The places where we create are a part of the story and provide context. Show our work in settings where Waterloo students, staff, faculty and alumni innovate, explore and discover.
Capture moments from a human perspective. The photographer should feel like a participant, not an observer.
Use natural light
Take advantage of natural light to ensure the photo feels authentic. Shooting at different times of day can add visual interest. You can use studio lighting to mimic natural light if necessary.
Use the background for context
Pull back in-focus shots to bring clarity and context to the entire scene. When possible, ensure the photo is recognizably Waterloo. In rare cases, you can use select focus, for example, when the background isn't relevant to the story and the design will have text overlaid on the image.
Shoot buildings in a way that highlights their architectural features and angles. Where possible and appropriate, feature people in the scene.
Shoot moments before a grab-and-grin pose to capture genuine smiles and interactions.
Feature University and affiliated logos in the background or on apparel to make locations feel distinct to Waterloo.
Inventiveness is a quality that sets Waterloo apart. Generative renders are a visual style we use to express our experimental nature and communicate ideas, accomplishments and discoveries from Waterloo. They are always connected to the content and meaning of the work they represent, and are specifically used to show research, discovery and transformation.
Certain ideas are more compelling when told through illustrations rather than photographs. Use the following guidelines when designing illustrations for Waterloo marketing and communication materials.
- Highlight ideas — Communicate main ideas or high-level concepts, not technical details. You shouldn’t need any specialized knowledge to understand the illustration.
- Visualize data — Illustrate specific findings that cannot be captured in photos or video.
- Share a new perspective — Illustrations should be thought-provoking, expressive and unexpected, allowing viewers to think about ideas or topics in new ways.
- Catch the viewer’s eye — Creating an image that is visually captivating and unique attracts attention to a story. Illustrations should never be too literal or generic.
- Add value and meaning — Illustrations should enhance the story, adding a new layer of meaning or summarizing an idea in a way words cannot. They should never be used purely as embellishment.
As a research-intensive university, our stories are brimming with interesting facts, figures and ideas. We use infographics to creatively and succinctly showcase data and data relationships that tell stories about our work and people.
Hierarchy through typography
Hierarchy guides the reader’s eye, shows relationships between ideas and creates clarity.
Use bold keylines to separate blocks of data.
Colours adds visual appeal to an infographic. Use it purposefully as a way to represent amounts or groupings of data.
Symbols or icons are a tool to display data in an intuitive way. Use symbols only where appropriate and if they help enhance the message and communicate data more effectively. Avoid using symbols decoratively or without purpose.
In order to stay consistent, our brand extends into every image we use, all the way down to the smallest symbol. We use a distinct style of symbol inspired by the forms, rounded corners and line weight of our brand typography, Typ1451. This helps establish unity between the type and icons we use.
Follow these tips for using symbols in marketing and communications materials:
- Ensure that symbols are simple, clear and consistent.
- Use a 32-square grid as the canvas.
- Make sure the stroke or outline of the icon is one square thick.
- Round stroke caps and corners.
- Fill symbols only when high visibility is required (e.g., parking arrows).
Download brand resources using the links below:
Icons enhance the functionality of apps while communicating a consistent brand. Waterloo app icons use one of the brand’s most recognizable elements – the colour bar – to create a cohesive look and feel.
Follow these tips for developing app icons:
- Ensure that icons are simple, relevant to the app and consistent.
- Use a 32-pixel square grid as the canvas.
- Maintain a border of at least six pixels from the icon to the edge of the canvas.
- Make sure the stroke or outline of the icon is two pixels wide and evenly divided between the four colour blocks of the University or faculty colour bar. (Note: Cross-faculty apps should use the University colour bar).
- Ensure icons are scaled evenly and appear as a set.
- Always place icons on a black background.
Portal app icon
WatSafe app icon
Faculty app icon
Sample icon in-context
Contact Creative Services to book a photoshoot.