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CBE & UW Messaging

Tools to help you craft content that meets your communication objectives while adhering to the UW brand style and messaging.

Quick links:

The University of Washington’s style guide provides a framework and context for your visual and content communications. When you create copy or visuals for print or the web, think about which pillar your subject matter represents. Specifically, you should be able to use this tool to inspire and help you write about your department’s programs, faculty, students, research, and the department as a whole.

The UW brand represents the university and the College of Built Environments’ unshakable optimism and determination. In the built environments, it’s the drive to break down barriers through community, design, public space, convening, and collaboration that separates us from what is and what can be. It’s our spirit to change how our communities and cities are planned, designed, built and maintained, and try the seemingly impossible. It’s – design-build, locally based studios, research, travel, community analysis, thoughtful planning and building, and all the values we represent – the actions we take to create a better world.

Getting the “right” tone: Using language that is personable, engaging and clear

While there are multiple characteristics that form our personality — and you may want to emphasize different aspects at different times for different audiences — we always want our tone of voice to come across as personable. We’re a trusted, knowledgeable source thanks to our position as a renowned research university, but we’re approachable. We don’t use pedantic jargon, and while we’re confident, we’re never arrogant. We’re people-oriented, engaging and passionate about making a difference in the world. That passion comes through with energetic, vibrant language.

Of course, the way you apply tone will vary depending on the audience, platform and your objectives. While you will make subtle shifts to ensure the tone suits your audience and communication goals, the overall tone — or feeling conveyed through copy — should embody the UW brand.

Here are some suggestions on ways to sound personable, engaging and clear:

  • Always consider your audience first. What kind of language and content will they connect with?
  • Be personal and direct. Use first person (“we,” “our,” “us”) and second person (“you,” “your”) when appropriate to maintain a conversational feel. Lead with details about students, faculty, alumni, donors, etc., when possible.
  • Avoid the thesaurus. Stick to everyday language. Strive to address complex issues using smart but clear language that is inclusive rather than alienating to readers.
  • Be concise. Use active rather than passive language.
  • Since we want to sound like a person, not an ivory tower institution, use contractions when it suits your target audience and the medium you’re using to communicate.

Brand Pillars

Leading-edge student experience

With countless universities touting their appeal to students, what sets UW’s College of Built Environments apart from the crowd? We believe it’s the infinite opportunities available to our students, particularly the ways we take the learning process beyond the classroom. With access to an extensive network of top faculty, researchers, peers, alumni and the community, CBE students contribute to real-world projects, work with industry leaders and professionals, apply theory, test ideas, and form lasting connections with the community. They’re doing more than reading and talking about positive changes; they’re the catalyst making change happen.

Sample copy focused on the student experience:

Example: Each year, students from the Department of Landscape Architecture enroll in a studio class with two main goals in mind—to participate in a design/build process that integrates thinking and making and to develop a space that provides an amenity for a community in need. For the students of the 2016 design/build course, an additional opportunity was added—to serve our country’s service men and women.

At Seattle’s VA Hospital, the nurses, doctors, social workers, psychologists and aids provide care to more than 100,000 retired military personnel annually. But in the midst of the medical speak, surgery, and physical therapy, there was no space to practice mental healing. That is until landscape architecture students from the UW College of Built Environments spent one quarter designing and one quarter building a healing garden, a place for people to reflect, find peace, be silent, relax, and leave behind the exhausting life of war.

Upon completion of the garden, students defined their feelings about this project—proud, humbled, connected, happy, strong, honored, fearless, and caring. Proving, learning and design/build aren’t just about sketches and production.

Example: In the United States students get excited for their first day at school. Then the appeal wears off. But for girls in Afghanistan who feel that same elated feeling of excitement of meeting new friends, admiring their teacher, and discovering their love for learning, they also feel fear.

The challenge for architecture students in Elizabeth Golden’s studio course was to design a school that eliminated that feeling of fear. Partnering with Seattle-based Miller-Hull Partnership, the students developed concepts for Ayni Education International, a group that builds schools in the Balkh Province of Afghanistan.

The students were challenged with understanding the situation as it stands in Afghanistan, and understanding the issues surrounding women’s education in Afghanistan and all the implications of that,” said Golden. “The school has to be responsive to the culture and has to be situated within the broader context of that culture, which is very complicated.”
The students also had to factor in issues of the local economy and the relative scarcity of building materials. Wood, for instance, is extremely hard to come by locally, and steel and concrete would need to be shipped in. Even access to electricity cannot be assumed.
“I’ve never seen students work so hard on a project,” Golden said.

Public as a philosophy

As the outcomes of our disciplines matter to everyone and as a part of one of the world’s preeminent public research universities, advancing social equity and changing lives is integral to who we are. Through civic partnerships, service-learning opportunities and much more, students, faculty, staff, alumni and our partners play active roles in the local and global community. We’re dedicated to leading the dialogue as promoters of positive change, innovation and strategic design for the future of the built environments. At our core, we believe in human potential and our role in unleashing it.

Example: Construction is more than building. It starts and ends with safety. And safety is Associate Professor Ken-Yu Lin’s expertise. Completing projects like Developing Fall Protection Training Materials for Non-English Speaking and Illiterate Construction Workers and iSave, a Construction Site Safety Audit iPad application give industry much needed tools to help educate and train workers on job-site safety.

Transferring research findings into useable tools and furthering industry best-practices is one way the UW Department of Construction Management is serving the construction community.

Example: Landscape Architecture principles – urban ecological design, design activism, study abroad, design research – these are the concepts that guide faculty to teach students to be mindful creators of green spaces. The ethos of these principles are seen through Associate Professor Nancy Rottle’s Regional Open Spaces Strategy (ROSS), which evaluates, connects, and fosters the creation of the natural and built green infrastructure. ROSS combines recreation and trails with natural ecosystems, rural and resource lands and community development to map the interconnected systems of our open spaces.

By partnering with The Trust for Public Land and Earth Economics, Rottle’s team is working to better value and evaluate the region’s current system of open spaces to place for protection and enhancement of these systems.

Proven impact

As one of the world’s most productive research universities, we have an unparalleled track record when it comes to research impact and excellence. For decades, our students and faculty have collaborated to turn ideas into life-changing realities, from designing ways to track our green spaces, testing technology that makes buildings use energy more efficiently, to understanding the housing market, and imagining more inclusive communities. In all we do as planners, advocates, designers, builders, problem solvers, developers and collaborators, we strive to make an impact on the communities where we live and work, whether it’s by touching one life or millions.
Sample copy focused on proven impact:

Innovation mindset

Seattle is a global hub for sustainable design, community building, and innovation, and much of that spirit and mindset is reflected in the College of Built Environments. As an international epicenter for turning ideas into actions, we’re participating in the launch of dozens of ideas, projects, and initiatives and across a wide range of fields the built environments interacts with locally, nationally, and internationally. Our shared ethos of innovation unites us as a college, a university and as a community.
Sample copy with a focus on innovation mindset:

Example: Analyzing the past, preparing for the future, and keeping people safe. That’s what the Institute for Hazards Mitigation and Research does. This interdisciplinary group of academics and students explore ways to enhance community resilience when a disaster happens. Completing projects for Homeland Security, the National Science Foundation, and a number of local government agencies, the group is assessing vulnerability, growth management opportunities, evacuation plans, floodplain management, and post disaster safety.

“By assessing what systems are in place and where departments can better communicate with each other and to the public, we can prevent some of the devastating impacts of our natural disasters that we’ve seen in the last few decades,” Professor Freitag said. “Keeping people safe is the number one goal. And the second is having a plan to recover from disasters quickly and efficiently.”

Example: At the Integrated Design Lab (IDL) our faculty think outside the box and far beyond. Researchers and graduate students in the IDL work to advance knowledge and policy that support the healthiest and highest performing buildings.

“Net zero energy buildings are a reality in our lifetime. We’re finding possibilities everywhere, like developing windows that capture energy from the sun. We can essentially make windows that work just like solar panels,” Chris Meek said. “This technology is a game changer for new high rise buildings in every city in the world.”