4 images with city grid graphic elements overlaid illustrating the different visual tone quadrants: contemporary/subtle, contemporary/bold, traditional/bold, and traditional/subtle.

Our Visual Tone

As NYU communicators, we speak to a range of audiences. Just like our written words, our designs also convey different tones—which is to say different energies and emotions. By using the different elements of our visual identity—color, typography, photography, and graphics—in different ways, we can achieve a range of visual tones.

Determining which tone is right for you is not an exact science and requires a bit of intuition. Consider what you are saying and who you are saying it to. A celebratory event for students, for example, will have a different tone than a formal event meant for donors.

Forming the Spectrum

The visual tone spectrum is a framework to think about our brand graphics. Our visual tone ranges from: traditional to contemporary and subtle to bold.

 

Sliding scale from "traditional" (left) to "contemporary" (right), with ultra violet dot in the center between them.

Traditional visuals often use serif fonts, more detailed graphics, and quieter photography.

Contemporary visuals often use sans serif fonts, geomteric graphics, and dynamic photography.

 

Sliding scale from "subtle" (left) to "bold" (right), with ultra violet dot in the center between them.

Subtle visuals include softer colors, toned down graphics, and less-busy photography.

Bold visuals are louder, more vibrant, and compositionally energetic.

 

Visual tone spectrum is a quadrant map with the following labels: "Contemporary" (top), "Traditional" (bottom), "Subtle" (left), "Bold" (right). Ultra violet dot is placed in the Contemporary/Bold quadrant.

Our default look is a mix of contemporary and bold. This generally translates to ultra violet accents, Gotham fonts, vibrant photography, and asymmetrical layouts. When in doubt, use our core visual identity in your designs to bring them to life.

Designing to the Spectrum

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Contemporary/Bold

This tone captures the excitement and energy of urban life and NYU’s innovative culture. It’s a celebration of creative minds in all fields coming together to inspire one another, explore possibilities, and change the world. This tone is more informal, embracing some of the rougher edges and creativity of the city. It resonates most with prospective and current students, and alumni.

Visual tone spectrum is a quadrant map with the following labels: "Contemporary" (top), "Traditional" (bottom), "Subtle" (left), "Bold" (right). Ultra violet dot is placed in the Contemporary/Bold quadrant.

Left: Photo/graphics. Gray and ultra violet city grid paths overlap photo of students walking NYU's Manhattan campus. Top right: Graphics. White and ultra violet city grid lines on NYU Violet background. Bottom right: Typography. Gotham bold header, Gotham Book body text. White text on black background, with ultra violet outlined city grid paths.

Design Charactertistics

  • Color: High contrast between NYU Violet, black, white, light gray, and Ultra Violet. See palette examples.
  • Fonts: Select weights of Gotham (Book, Bold, Black, Ultra). See type pairing examples.
  • Photography: Incorporate pops of color, movement, and community.
  • Graphics: Prominent use of our city grid graphics, solid paths, thicker line weights.

Types of Communications

  • Lookbook to prospective students
  • Social media to incoming freshman
  • Club email to enrolled students

Examples in Action

 

Contemporary/Subtle

This tone has the same energy and excitement as Contemporary/Bold but is grounded in maturity and confidence. This tone is less about getting your attention, and more about rolling up its sleeves and getting down to the work required to support the academic mission of the University. It resonates more with internal facing audiences like administrators, faculty, and staff.

Visual tone spectrum is a quadrant map with the following labels: "Contemporary" (top), "Traditional" (bottom), "Subtle" (left), "Bold" (right). Ultra violet dot is placed in the Contemporary/Subtle quadrant.

Left: Photo/graphics. White outlined city grid paths and ultra violet line overlap an aerial photo of a taxi driving down past a crosswalk. Top right: Graphics. Medium Violet outlined city grid paths on light violet background. Bottom right: Typography. Gotham Light header (violet), Gotham Book body text (black).

Design Charactertistics

  • Color: Low contrast between shades of NYU Violet, ultra violet, white, and light gray. See palette examples.
  • Fonts: Select weights of Gotham (Extra Light, Light, Book, Bold). See type pairing examples.
  • Photography: Incorporate pops of color, movement, and community.
  • Graphics: Occasional use of our city grid graphics, outlined paths, thinner line weights.

Types of Communications

  • Annual report
  • Letterhead
  • Meeting agenda

Examples In-Action


Traditional/Subtle

This tone is for formal communications that require a personal and accessible touch. Grounded in tradition, it is sophisticated and restrained, and it emphasizes our position as a prestigious academic institution. It resonates with most donors, trustees, and audiences of formal events like commencement.

Visual tone spectrum is a quadrant map with the following labels: "Contemporary" (top), "Traditional" (bottom), "Subtle" (left), "Bold" (right). Ultra violet dot is placed in the Traditional/Subtle quadrant.

Left: Photo/graphics. White city grid paths (at 50% transparency) overlap photo of student walking into NYU Law building. Top right: Graphics. Medium Violet outlined city grid paths on NYU Violet background. Bottom right: Typography. Mercury Bold header (violet), Gotham Book body text (black).

Design Charactertistics

  • Color: Low contrast between shades of NYU Violet, white, and light gray. See palette examples.
  • Fonts: Mix of Gotham (Book, Light, Extra Light Bold) and Mercury. See type pairing examples.
  • Photography: Avoid bright colors, movement and crowds. Focus instead on quieter scenes.
  • Graphics: Occasional use of our city grid graphics, outlined paths, thinner line weights.

Types of Communications

  • Programs for presidential events
  • An invitation for Commencement
  • Event branding for a faculty honors reception

Examples In-Action


Traditional/Bold

This tone is for matter-of-fact or hard-fact messaging that needs the weight of NYU’s gravitas behind it. It conveys a sense of importance, so consider it for quieter, more reserved pieces. It resonates with more mature audiences like retired faculty, graduate students, and external financial partners.

Visual tone spectrum is a quadrant map with the following labels: "Contemporary" (top), "Traditional" (bottom), "Subtle" (left), "Bold" (right). Ultra violet dot is placed in the Traditional/Bold quadrant.

Left: Photo/graphics. White city grid paths overlap photo of NYU flag on side of building. Top right: Graphics. White city grid on deep violet background. Bottom right: Typography. Gotham bold header (violet), Gotham Book body text (black). Light violet city grid in background.

Design Charactertistics

  • Color: High contrast between shades of NYU Violet, Deep Violet, white, light gray, and Ultra Violet. See palette examples.
  • Fonts: Mix of Gotham (Book, Bold, Black, Ultra) and Mercury. See type pairing examples.
  • Photography: Avoid bright colors, movement and crowds. Focus instead on quieter scenes.
  • Graphics: Prominent use of our city grid graphics, solid paths, thicker line weights.

Types of Communications

  • Program for Society of Retired Faculty event
  • Presentation for University budget

Examples in Action