Heralding the first industry standard in universal design
The Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access (IDEA Center), housed within the University at Buffalo’s School of Architecture and Planning, is dedicated to creating environments, products and systems more accessible for an increasingly diverse population. They stand to make the changing world a place where schools, offices, public spaces and more adapt to the shared needs of all individuals by applying advanced knowledge – specifically through the use of their proprietary tool, the innovative solutions for Universal Design (isUD™) program.
Although the IDEA Center had a website to promote the tool, it lacked a marketing platform, assets and a unified approach to maximize awareness and adoption on a broader scale. In 19 IDEAS, they requested a communications strategy worthy of the tool’s significance.
Creating the toolbox
We convened a comprehensive Discovery meeting with the IDEA Center leadership, including architects, researchers and founders, and included experts in branding, creative, strategy, and public relations from our team. The objective of this meeting was to develop an immersive understanding of the IDEA Center’s objectives and values, paired with the unique differentiators, potential, and vision for the isUD tool as a game changer in certifying universal design.
Building a strategy from the ground up
We dove into research and follow-on insights gathering. This included a review of proprietary IDEA Center documentation, published works and client testimonials to better understand the isUD program and its impact. From there, we created and conducted a market research survey with key members of the IDEA Center and its clients to better understand real-world applications advantages.
Our team used these insights to propose a three-tiered strategy that would build a robust framework for the IDEA Center’s communications and its future positioning opportunities.
First, the message
Phase one focused on developing a brand positioning and messaging guide to serve as a thorough internal reference for the isUD program. Contents began with refreshing foundational elements, inclusive of historical overviews, and followed a strategic path through Mission/Vision/Value Proposition statements, core audiences, brand attributes, campaign guidelines and a channel strategy. This was designed and packaged for internal print and electronic distribution.
Second, the build
Phase two focused on creating a detailed, compelling infographic to serve as a visual education and marketing centerpiece for the isUD program. Features included a series of rooms, use cases, and detailed descriptions on how universal design has the power to create a better world through focused initiatives of change. The infographic’s headline – “The world is changing. Buildings should too.”
An isometric illustration style with accurate perspectives helped convey how inclusive solutions could eliminate barriers in public and commercial buildings to serve diverse communities, and its accompanying language provided benefits that each audience could understand and apply. The piece was formatted for electronic use, and also designed into a dynamic, foldable marketing piece that unfolded in a series of panels to bring an additional storytelling element to the collateral. When fully opened, the back side of the collateral included the full infographic – designed to be posted for display in any visual area.
Third, the story
Phase three included a media relations strategy targeting Western New York and select national outlets. Our angles, timing and approach were intentionally designed to introduce the modern-day significance of universal design and the role of the IDEA Center and isUD in creating the first industry standard.
Our initial public relations campaign yielded a feature story in Buffalo Business First – including commentary from IDEA Center leadership and one of their clients, Uniland Development. There is an expected feature article planned for a reputable regional magazine – scheduled for early 2020. The publicity campaign also led to positive relationship building with industry writers representing national publications such as Forbes.com.
The world is changing. Our work helped too.
Our phased approach helped the IDEA Center, and its isUD tool, garner the internal and external attention it deserved. With consistent and strategic language decisions, a vibrant and accurate infographic that positioned unique solutions, and a public relations campaign yielding national attention, our relationship was successful both in parts and in totality.