Our visual style

We have developed a distinct Essex identity with visual assets that bring our character and personality to life.

Our Essex Spirit is all about authenticity and real-world grit, so we express this in our visual style as a key part of our identity.

We pay homage to our architectural heritage and the geometric structure in our logo, taking an angular approach to any design expression.

This means that Essex does not use curves, circles or rounded edges in any expression of our visual style.

Grid structure

Our visual style is based on a simple but flexible underlying block-like grid.

University's grid structure for promotional materials

  • Our grid based system underpins all of our designs and is always the start-point of our creative design process.
  • At its most subtle, it acts as a guide for laying out text and images.
  • Sometimes the grid is used to create a border.
  • The grid can also be used on digital media.
  • Designs can be set at a slight tilt but must be at no more than a five degree angle.

Examples of University's grid structure in two posters

Please do not attempt to recreate grids.

Each grid system is based on the original size of our logo for each application. The table below outlines our most commonly used sizes.

Application size Logo size  Grid structure  Row / column gutters  Page margins 
A3 (portrait) 28mm (h) 12 (w) x 16 (h) 3mm 11.2mm
A4 (portrait) 20mm (h) 12 (w) x 16 (h) 2mm 8mm
A5/DL (portrait) 15mm (h) 12 (w) x 16 (h) 1.5mm 6mm
85x55mm (landscape) 12mm (h) 6 (w) x10 (h) 1mm 4.8mm

Using our font 

Akzidenz Grotesk is our font.

As we always ensure our messaging gets straight to the point, it’s important our typeface reflects this no-nonsense approach.

Find out more about using our font.

Numbers, line spacing and bullet points


Numbering should not be indented and in-line with the body copy.

Line spacing

Spacing is set quite tightly; as a guide, Akzidenz body copy is set 9pt type on 11pt.

Headings are set with a +1pt leading. This will vary depending on the ascenders and descenders, so care should be taken that they don’t hit each other or look too widely spaced. As a guide, some of the applications in these guidelines are 34pt type on 35pt leading or 50pt type on 51pt leading.

Bullet points

Bullet points are square. Square options can be set as standard in Microsoft packages. Where this is not available, they can be set using a lower case 'n' in Wingdings.

A guide has been developed to help create the correct bullet points: How to create bullet points in Word 2010 (.docx)

They should be set at 80% of the text size.

Align bullet points to body copy and no indentation. Sub-bullets should take the form of a dash and should be indented.

As the font size increases so should the indentation space. For 12 pt font size, indention size (tab) is 4.5mm.

Colour can be applied to bullet points to add visual interest.

Text should be left justified on bullet points.

Blocks and layers

Graphic blocks, layers and overlays are a key part of our Essex visual style and should always be used in some way.

  • The most ownable and distinctive device is the outline block, (reflecting the squares in our logo) which can work in a variety of ways eg block like rules around a piece of type either top, bottom or both, rather than always as a 4-sided block.
  • Other styles of blocks can also be used eg tinted overlays with flat or gradient colours, blocks holding imagery or text, block like rules (ie thick rules).
  • Only right angled blocks should be used – no circles or round edged blocks. The only approved exception to this is use of a heart-shaped design.
  • The colour of the outline can be single or two colours in a gradient. Make sure that the outline can be seen both over the block and the background.

Example of graphic blocks, layers and overlays

  • A simple outline block can also be used to contain a piece of text.

Example of an advert with simple outline block graphic.

  • Open-edged boxes work well: a gap in the side of the outline allows text to overflow the box and adds an element of edge that can break up the monotony of a regular box when used alone.

Example of an advert with an open-edged box allowing text to overflow the box

  • An outline block, offset over a solid block (as shown with this text box), is particularly distinctive.

Example of an offset text box used in Essex's visual style.

  • Other styles of blocks can be used eg solid colour or texture with overlaid text, transparent over an image or gradient blocks.
  • Gradient blocks should be used sparingly (eg as a cover or divider pages) and a single combination chosen per application.


We’ve taken the idea of our iconic squares and have abstracted them into brackets.

The basic principles of our bracket system and text proportions are:

  • brackets will be used to frame titles (but not sub-heads) and pull-out quotes only. This is to ensure there is a close proximity between any copy and the graphical element
  • when using the brackets with large messaging, important information or quotes, it is crucial to consider the sizes of the brackets in proportion to the size of the text. The rule is to ensure that there is consistency in proportion of text to bracket
  • colours for the brackets system must be complimentary to the image it is part of
  • to avoid any mixed alignment, all text should align left and sit centred in the brackets
  • the brackets should not be over-used. There are a variety of brand devices that are available to add visual interest, such as blocks or text in images

Example of brackets graphic element.


Illustration should not be used

Illustration should never be used. This is because at a conceptual level, our Essex spirit is all about authenticity and real-world grit. Illustration is the opposite of this, it’s abstract.


The aim of a supertag is to help students recognise the key themes of the communication they are receiving.

Students need to know the general theme of a communication – not what team or section created it. Supertags are not to be used like individual logos.

With our supertags, the goal is for different teams communicating about a similar theme all to use the same supertag. By providing consistency, we can cut down on confusion and help our students identify key communication.

  • Supertags should only be used on internal student communications.
  • They are organised by service or department.
  • Supertags must always be used in conjunction with the Essex logo. The Essex logo must be positioned in the top left or bottom right corner.
  • For printed communications such as posters and leaflets, supertags will be positioned either in the top left hand corner or vertically in bottom right hand edge.

Example of position of supertags in adverts

  • For merchandise you can position a supertag in any location.

Example of position of supertags on merchandise

  • All requests for new supertags must be approved by the Internal Communications team. Please email comms@essex.ac.uk with your request in the first instance.
  • Search 'supertags' in our Staff Directory to find up to date details of all approved supertags
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Contact us
Brand management team Contact us for advice and guidance on expressing our University identity.