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Making multibranding look right – our next Design System community session on aesthetics

Multibranding – representing the University brand alongside partner brands to accurately reflect partnerships without compromising our own integrity  – is a design challenge shared across the University. The aesthetics aspect of multibranding is particularly important to get right. As part of the Design System project, we are planning a two-part community event aimed at developing best practice guidance for those tasked with arranging multiple brands. 

Multibranding (sometimes referred to as co-branding) is the process of displaying the University brand alongside external logos on various products and services – such as websites, applications, and marketing materials.

Multibranding in the Design System – our work so far

In my research to scope needs and requirements for the new Web Publishing Platform, I  learned the  importance of achieving effective multibranding across the University. Research projects, joint programmes, events and conferences are just some of the associations the University forms with external institutions. In each collaboration, it is important that the co-branding reflects the partnership accurately yet does not impact the University brand integrity. Achieving this satisfactorily is something many teams find challenging due to various interrelated factors.

A key purpose of the new University Design System is to support University staff in their design work by offering resources and guidance tailored to their needs. With multibranding established as a shared design challenge, it made sense to invite staff to work together as a community within the Design System project.


Our first community event to start looking at multibranding was a Designathon. Read more about the Designathon in Sonia Virdi’s blog posts:

Design System’s inaugural Designathon

Multibrand Designathon – the next steps

Build a checklist session

Following the Designathon I ran a session aimed at developing a checklist to address multibranding governance. Read more in the related post:

Building a checklist for multibranding governance – our latest Design System community session

Multibranding Working Group

Our community events ran to date have affirmed multibranding is a complex issue with many dependencies to consider. Working with Sonia Virdi, Product Owner of the Design System, we decided that establishing a working group dedicated to multibranding would be a good way to keep on top of multibranding issues and decisions to ensure consistency in the approach across the University. We have created a Teams channel for the working group and have begun to recruit members, with our first meeting planned for 13 October, 12:00-13:00.

The importance of aesthetics in multibranding

The Designathon and checklist session highlighted the need to address another important aspect of multibranding – that of aesthetics. How brands look when they are positioned together is an important consideration, and, when dealing with multiple logos,  it requires skill to arrange them in a satisfactory way. Alignment of text, colours and dealing with logos of different orientation are just some of the considerations to be taken into account. From research, we understand that designers approach this on a case-by-case basis, using conventions and sets of principles to guide their decision-making. We wanted to design a session to capture some of this knowledge and skill, to make it more widely available through the Design System.

Two-part session on multibranding aesthetics

To tackle the aesthetics aspect, we recognised the value of enlisting the help of University designers to help us defining some standards, conventions and examples for arranging multiple brands in the most aesthetically appropriate way possible. Ann Harrison, Digital Designer for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences has helped us design a two-part event, which we hope to run through the Design Community with the help of Jackie Thompson, Marketing and Communications Manager. The event will comprise the following elements:

Part 1 – Independent design work – multibrand design exercise

Designers choose 7 from a collection of 10 logos (one of which is the University of Edinburgh logo) to be accomodated in a mock multibranding scenario. They sketch out a design which incorporates all 7 logos in a way suitable to be included on a University webpage. To accompany their design they provide notes on aspects of their process, including:

  • How they decided order, hierarchy, colour, sizing, position of logos relative to each other
  • How they would match up and weight the text
  • How to space the logos
  • Type of digital solution, components or software to use to  implement their designs
  • Tools to achieve coherence and balance
  • Information sources they consulted in the process
  • Examples they referred to and what they extracted from these.

Part 2 – Sharing designs and discussing

Designers taking part in the part 1 of the challenge show their designs and share their reflections on the design process. Together, we share and discuss the logo arrangements and the approaches taken to extract some overarching multibranding design principles to be included within the Design System for everyone to use. If appropriate, everyone votes on the most important decision points around aesthetics.

Get in touch if you would like to be involved

If you would like to be included in the working group to help improve the way the University approaches multibranding, or if you are interested in helping with the aesthetic exercise, please email Emma Horrell (


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