Rebranding: More than just a Ryerson Trend

If you’re a student at Ryerson University, you may have noticed the school’s new brand, or even heard the price of it. Bruce Mau Design gave Ryerson’s familiar blue, gold, and white aesthetic a rebrand at the cost of $200,000. But while rebranding may seem wasteful, it is sometimes essential for companies and organizations.

“A brand, by definition, is the persona in which your organization is identified,” says Taylor Guthrie, a digital media buyer at Media Experts, an advertising agency in Toronto. “It’s a set of ideologies that you adhere to internally, and are upheld to externally.” He says that organizations may have to rebrand in order to better resonate with their target audience, or reinforce values and ideologies.   

Sheldon Levy, president of Ryerson, said that the school’s strong university identity could be better implied after rebranding. He said that the university wants to incorporate Ryerson’s educational strength in its brand message while also illustrating its reputation of being an urban centre.

“Ryerson’s a brand of people proud of who we are and its institution, and that brand has got to give a sense of that,” says Levy in a Q-and-A video on Ryerson’s rebranding page. “When you see it, you say, ‘That’s Ryerson. That’s where I want to be.’”

Relevancy is another reason why organizations rebrand.

“A brand may no longer be viewed as relevant by their target audience, and thus they have to make the appropriate shifts in order to resonate with this audience and regain relevancy,” said Guthrie.

Organizations may need to appear more relevant if they’re undergoing a change in management, to appeal to a new audience, or to just stay current. It’s been 10 years since Ryerson last rebranded, and some may have found that logo old-fashioned.

“Its typography isn’t very modern,” says third-year business law student, Michael Musalem. “The old logo doesn’t stand out to me, it looks pretty insignificant.”


Among enterprising, diverse, and creative, Ryerson has tried to appear relevant in its rebrand using a subtle redesign. Like Google’s rebranded logo, a small shift in appearance can better communicate an updated brand tone — but a even the slightest change doesn’t mean it will cost any less.

The cost of rebranding correlates to the size of an organization. “If you’re a small, independent reality firm that’s looking to make a change in its visual representation, chances are it’s not going to cost very much,” said Guthrie. “However, if you’re a worldwide, multi-billion dollar company such as McDonald’s, Pepsi, or Facebook, then you’re looking at millions of dollars.” He thinks the expense can pay off if the rebrand is strategic, and executed creatively and authentically.

Public opinion can also determine whether the whole process was worth it. Some rebrands can suffer from serious backlash for their design, such as in 2009 when PepsiCo’s 2009 redesign of Tropicana Pure Premium orange juice was called “ugly” and “resembling a bargain brand” by customers.

Ryerson’s rebrand has received mixed reviews from its students.

“I don’t think the new logo makes much of a difference for Ryerson, but I prefer the old one. It still has the classic aesthetic that most of Ryerson follows,” said Zubairul Islam, a third-year business student.

Paul Richardson, a fourth-year biomedical science student, thinks the rebrand illustrates Ryerson’s urban reputation better than the old one, but it won’t make or break someone’s decision to study there.

“The new one is more fresh, it’s clean … It’s more nuanced, certainly more flashy than the old one,” said Richardson. “The old one is more sleepy. More subdued, customary, and old-fashioned. But it’s not about the logo. Ryerson’s appeal and reputation is based on the quality of its programs.”

Still, Ryerson’s rebrand initiative is in only its fourth stage. The final stage — creative execution, which aims to make students familiar with the new brand — has not yet been implemented. The success of Ryerson’s rebrand, or lack thereof, awaits.

Images courtesy of Ryerson University