Why Does NJIT Need a Brand?

Branding is creating meaning or a perception in the minds of the audiences that the university is working to influence.  Higher education has become an extremely competitive field, particularly in the recruitment of the highly-motivated, academically accomplished students who have the interest and aptitude to succeed at a technological university. With the Internet and email, today's high school students are inundated with information from hundreds of colleges and universities. An NJIT brand is a succinct means of conveying both visually and verbally who we are and what we have to offer.  And, public perception does affect the value, the “currency,” of a degree for students and alumni alike.

Has NJIT Done Any Research on Public Perceptions?

Yes, NJIT undertook a study of attitudes of adult New Jerseyans about the university in 2001, and again in 2004 to track changes. An in-depth communications audit was also commissioned in 2004. Among the findings of these studies:

  • NJIT’s academic programs are known and respected in the Newark metropolitan area, but outside of northern New Jersey, the university is less well known.
  • The general public has some difficulty differentiating between NJIT and Stevens Institute of Technology.
  • The university's greatest assets – cutting-edge, multi-disciplinary education and research – are the very things that make the university confusing and hard to understand. People are much more positive if you show them a simple bottom line such as, "NJIT is helping to make New Jersey safer through technologies to combat terrorism."  

Does Perception Affect NJIT's Rankings?

Popular annual rankings of colleges and universities by U.S. News and World Report and the Princeton Review are both based heavily on perception and opinion. These rankings are used extensively by prospective students in making comparisons among universities. The U.S. News rankings, based on a survey of college and university administrators, weight peer assessment as 25% of the university's total score. No other element of the ranking scheme is weighted as heavily.

Two years ago, a slight reduction in NJIT's peer assessment score, due, we think, at least in part, to various discussions in regard to the configuration of universities in New Jersey, contributed to the university's drop to the third tier among national universities.  Although the score went back up in 2005, it was not enough to bring the university's ranking back to the top level. Princeton Review, which ranks only the best 370 US colleges and universities, based on student polls, gave NJIT good marks for academics but noted that further improvements in campus quality of life are called for. In rankings based solely on substantive factors though, the university improved, emerging among the “Top American Research Universities" in the annual study by The Center at the University of Florida, as well as among the 25 fastest-growing research programs in the nation. 

When Did NJIT Decide to Undertake a Brand Identity Program?

NJIT’s decision to undertake a comprehensive branding and graphic identity program came together in late 2004 based on a number of factors, including the results of our opinion research and a recent decline in the popular rankings. 

In addition, NJIT adopted a new strategic plan in 2004 with the overall goal: “Within this decade, we will see NJIT recognized as a top-ranked public research university, as a national leader in the education of underrepresented groups for the technological professions, and a catalyst for a healthy New Jersey economy.” 

The priorities of the strategic plan are all heavily dependent on a cohesive and positive image for the university: to bring the most respected programs into national prominence; to expand the research and intellectual property efforts of the university; to increase revenue from private sources;  to become nationally recognized for attracting high-achieving students from diverse national and international backgrounds; and to improve the quality of life of the campus community with a focus on the student. 

Who Is Implementing the Branding Program and What Does It Include?

In May 2005, NJIT contracted with CN Communications, a Newark-based firm whose principals have considerable experience and understanding of the New Jersey higher education environment. CN Foundry, the firm's creative services arm, has extensive expertise in design and implementation of institutional and corporate identity programs. CN is working closely with University Communications to develop the NJIT Brand.

The new logo, as well as the tag line, "The Edge in Knowledge," has been rolled out on campus in the form of banners and signs. The brand identity will be incorporated over time in all of the materials produced by the university, beginning with the President’s Report that was released in December.  It will be incorporated into our recruitment advertising and print publications, and a redesigned university home page on the web. A graphic identity manual is under development so that all of those within the university who produce materials and web sites will have access to the guidelines. We plan to do some new visibility initiatives, including some image advertising.   

What Does NJIT's New Tagline, "The Edge in Knowledge," Mean?

To accompany the new logo, a tagline to summarize the essence of NJIT, a shorthand way to help people understand the university’s contributions in education and research and what NJIT offers stakeholders, as well as its role in the state’s intellectual and economic development. Several taglines were tested, and the one that received overwhelmingly the best reception,  “The Edge in Knowledge,” was selected.

“The Edge in Knowledge” is a phrase appropriate to our time and position as a university. It suggests many of the messages we want to convey about NJIT.

  • We live in a knowledge-based economy, in which an NJIT education provides an advantage – a competitive edge – in the job market.
  • Companies depend on the availability and quality of "knowledge workers" who can create value-added products and services through innovative technologies and designs. NJIT alumni in their workforce provide New Jersey companies with a market edge.
  • University researchers work to discover new applications for the most advanced technologies – at the leading edge – in science and engineering.  
  • NJIT nurtures a non-traditional, entrepreneurial environment with the vigor and energy – the innovative edge – to respond quickly to emerging needs and opportunities, as demonstrated, for example, by our programs in homeland security.
  • In another sense, being at the edge denotes audacity, a willingness to take chances, and this is the kind of daring embodied in some of our pioneering programs, e.g., the SmartCampus project that will make NJIT a national model for wireless, on-line communities.
  • There’s also an edge that suggests a keen enjoyment or zest, and this is something we try to share with our students along with knowledge. We see a vibrant campus life emerging around our new Campus Center and other facilities.

The edge in knowledge is the mark of quality that a top-ranked science and technology research university can bring to our state. The scientific and technological expertise we provide to industry through our graduates and our faculty researchers is the key to New Jersey’s future prosperity.  

NJIT's vision stresses innovation, entrepreneurship and engagement in order to address the issues facing our society. Our educational tradition emphasizes the pursuit of excellence, real world learning, and applied research. Our students are characterized by a seriousness of purpose.  

These are the ideas we want people to think and feel immediately when they see or hear the NJIT brand identity.

What Does It Mean for NJIT To Be New Jersey's Science and Technology University?

NJIT has a unique role in the state’s higher education system. Science and technology are the very foundations upon which the university is built. A comprehensive public university may well have substantial, high-quality programs in science and technology, but such institutions, by virtue of their size and variety, likely do not have NJIT’s clear, intense focus in these areas.  

Science and technology are intrinsic to every part of NJIT’s mission as well as pervasive elements in every aspect of campus life. Every department in every school or college works actively to advance the state of the art in scientific knowledge and technological application and to incorporate the most advanced thinking into the teaching programs. The university’s programs in engineering and the physical sciences develop and apply cutting edge technologies. Management programs at NJIT address their impact on business and industry. Humanities programs at NJIT study the social and cultural implications of technological change. Architects integrate technology with aesthetics. Mathematicians develop algorithms to simulate and test biological systems and technological processes.  And there are others.  

NJIT’s smaller size and concentrated focus allow it a greater degree of flexibility than a larger institution. The university can recognize the potential in emerging technologies and respond quickly to such opportunities. New educational programs – in breakthrough areas like Bio-MEMS, optical communications and Internet security -- are developed in response to developing industry trends. Research throughout the university, emphasizing applications and commercialization in partnership with private partners, works to transform the most promising emerging technologies into new industries that will secure New Jersey’s economic future.

As a public university focused on science and technology, NJIT also has the mission of ensuring an inclusive technological workforce. The university provides a full spectrum of educational programs to encourage its citizens to participate in the technologically-driven economy. For more than 40 years, NJIT has operated aggressive educational opportunity and pre-college initiatives, designed to attract young people from underrepresented groups to careers in science and technology and to give them the tools they need to succeed in a rigorous technical degree program. At the other end of the spectrum, the university offers an extensive array of graduate and continuing professional education programs designed to help working professionals stay current with the state of the art in their field.

Other Documents Related to Branding

  • "The NJIT Brand," a memo from Robert A, Altenkirch, president of NJIT, 10-7-2005.
  • "Branding Beginnings: Next Steps," a memo from Jean Llewellyn, executive director of University Communications, 10-17-2005.