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Brand expression

Our brand covers a lot of ground

So much to say. So much to show. And, as a nuanced brand, we have to speak to many different people in all sorts of different places.

To help our audiences better connect with the IU brand, we often adapt the forms our visual and verbal communications take. Having a range of brand expression lets us do that in a creative but intentional way.

A living brand with evolving expression

It takes an adaptive brand to meet the dynamic nature of the marketing landscape. So we’ve found a way to adapt while still being true to ourselves.

Depending upon a number of different factors, our marketing and communications range from functional to expressive and from formal to informal. This gives us the flexibility to adapt our materials to better resonate with constituents across touchpoints, and throughout their journey.

And while there’s no formula for brand expression, we’ve established guidelines to help us communicate with a personalized touch while still feeling uniquely IU.

From functional to expressive

As marketers and communicators, we always want to convey something to our audience. And many of our executions aim to convince people to take a specific desired action.

But depending upon the goal of your piece, and whom you’re targeting, your creation might range from functional to expressive. Here’s a closer look at what that means:


If your intention is to inform or educate your audience in a straightforward way, your execution will probably be functional. Functional pieces are clean, simple, and unadorned. Think of functional as a direct form of brand expression that avoids ornament or excess.


If the best way to achieve your objective is by making your audience feel, or by creating an emotional connection, your execution should be expressive. Expressive pieces embrace rich, bold, and illustrative styles. Think of expressive as an experiential form of brand expression, with room to be playful, dramatic, or elaborate.

Explore functional to expressive design

From formal to informal

From students to parents to university presidents, and from social media to websites to ceremonies—we communicate with a range of audiences in a variety of spaces. There are settings in which it’s more effective to communicate in a formal style, and others in which it’s best to take an informal approach.

IU’s brand expression gives you the ability to flex. To meet your audience where they are, and deliver your message in its most persuasive form.


Formal executions represent our brand in its most traditional form, embracing standards and conventions. Because formal work is suitable for the most official or executive scenarios, messaging exhibits restraint and observes propriety.


Informal executions skew toward conversational and approachable. Brand expression on the informal side of the spectrum is relaxed rather than strict in form. Messaging is appropriate, but far less constrained. Informal pieces might adopt the vernacular of a platform or age demographic, for example. But be careful, because that doesn’t mean pandering.

Learn more about formality in verbal language

More brand expression essentials

Now that you’ve got a better understanding of IU’s philosophy of brand expression, it’s time to learn more about putting theory into practice.

  • Visual Language

    Discover our fundamental design elements. Here, you can learn about typography, composition, photography, graphics, and more.

  • Verbal language

    Get acquainted with IU’s brand voice, personality, and tone. Find best writing practices for different media, become an expert at messaging strategy, and get access to important style guides.