An overhaul for Newman University

SMILE helped Newman University with their biggest overhaul in decades. The project gave Newman a new brand language in both visual and content terms, a new website, intranet and refreshed prospectus.

Copy of Newman Mockup newman university

To rebrand the university, replace the hosting infrastructure, CMS and design of the Newman University flagship website, including the design of a course database system as well as overhaul and replace the current intranet system with a bespoke offering from SMILE. In addition, the new brand and content were implemented into the main university prospectus.

Being asked to replace everything and effectively start over from scratch is a big undertaking. Stakeholders from all areas of the university were involved so that the copy, design, compliance and technical aspects of the project were in order. The university was facing issues with identity. Having previously been known as Newman College for Higher Education and Newman University College, full university status was achieved in 2013, but the university had struggled to build its reputation

Copy of Newman Prospectus Mockup newman university

Our process began with creative workshops carried out with staff, stakeholders, students and alumni. These workshops covered a multitude of objectives and resulted in us gaining in-depth knowledge and understanding of the culture, the misconceptions, the vision and the goals for the university. To get the most out of these sessions we’ve formulated a series of creative tasks, including a storytelling exercise which gives us invaluable insight into the issues the institution is currently facing, the public conceptions of the brand and a clear vision for the future.

The tone of voice and creation of written content fell within our remit, allowing us to have an input on all parts of the brand. Our content team identified five pillars for the brand, a design for the tone of voice along with guides on how to use nuances within this tone depending on the audience to be communicated with.

The visual development began with fundamentals such as colour, typography and a redesigned logo. A new palette was developed around a theme of raw materials, wood, cloth, gold, paper, stone and water. A balanced typographic set was honed to allow creativity and hierarchy, with a nod to the proud history of the institution whilst at the same time noting a forward-facing vision for the future.

Copy of Newman Style Mockup newman university

A suite of colour pairings and patterns were created. We carried out an extensive piece of work to ensure colour pairings would pass accessibility standards.

The website and intranet are integrated and benefit from shared assets. Working in agile sprints, we were able to create both properties in six months inclusive of the technical build. We were able to implement knowledge transfer opportunities in order to advance their staff’s understanding of the digital world. Implementation of an open-source CMS has allowed them to delegate content creation to almost all members of staff. The design work has been informed by a partial overhaul of the content. Innovation comes in the form of a brand new workflow and governance system created by SMILE that allows the university to ditch most of their paper-based processes and move towards a fully digital process inclusive of auditing compliance at a higher level. Whilst the website is a dramatic departure from their old site, it is nevertheless a step-change for the organisation and serves as a solid foundation to work on new ideas that will modernise the establishment.


The brand, website, and intranet were all launched in late January 2018. Early feedback from users indicates the change has been incredibly well-received, and a second-quarter review is scheduled in the coming weeks at which point we will have more analysis on adoption and usage. However, some of the changes implemented are already proving to be a huge success.

The new governance structure now allows the upkeep of website content to be shared amongst 50 plus staff. Prior to our work with the university, this workload was the responsibility of one person. 

In addition to our governance structure, we implemented a component-led page design tool. Conscious of monotony between pages in the previous site, we set out to overcome this issue in the new site. We designed a suite of components that can be used in an almost unlimited number of combinations. The power is now in the hands of web editors who can create a page to suit their exact requirements whilst ensuring that a consistent, on-brand aesthetic and tone is maintained. The result of these changes has been a cultural switch in the way the website is maintained. Newman have now adopted an iterative approach that will keep the site moving forwards.

Elliott Barnicle
Elliott Barnicle

Lead Designer