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USA Today brand refresh unifies design nationwide, fosters cross-team collaboration

By Glenann Godden

USA Today Network

McLean, Virginia, United States


As the largest local-to-national media organisation in the United States, USA Today Network wanted to bring our brands together and showcase our national footprint by amplifying the connection across our 100+ local brands.

A recent brand refresh aligned with a strategic transformation across the company — we recognised and responded to changes in societal reading habits, as more people consume more digital media.

As creative director for that brand refresh, our team had an immense opportunity to develop a visual system connecting our national and local brands. New brand elements and graphics were created to better reflect the bright, approachable tone of USA Today, while building a visual connection with the unique qualities of our local communities.

Through the massive scale of the refresh of our print and digital products, logos and identity systems, colour and typefaces, we unified our presence across our product experiences — which also extends into our video and social content creation. In its largest phase of the rollout, we refreshed the look and feel of the print products, launching the design refresh simultaneously across all newspapers in October 2017.

Overseeing these efforts was Matt Urbanos, vice president of brand marketing, who wanted to put our audiences first by improving the experience for the reader. Much consideration was given toward developing a more attractive, modern design and grid system for the newspapers, while retaining the historic details and quality content that our audiences value.

Countless design elements were examined carefully and made more consistent across more than 100 USA Today Network titles for a more unified look and feel that extends across digital and print.
Countless design elements were examined carefully and made more consistent across more than 100 USA Today Network titles for a more unified look and feel that extends across digital and print.

To continue to bring together our products beyond just our properties’ badges and brand colours, two custom typefaces, Unify Sans and Unify Serif, were created exclusively for our company. These were designed to be approachable and readable for our audiences. The Unify Sans family builds on USA Today’s existing expression, but introduces a more consistent tone suitable for all outlets in the network. Unify Serif is designed to meet the rigors of a print product.

Positive outcomes of this typeface change also included the ability to withstand the stresses of high-speed printing methods, while still being well suited for long-form reading on mobile devices. Focus group tests prior to launch resulted in 100% of participants favouring the new typeface readability in body copy and improved overall quality of our audiences’ reading experience.

We made strategic decisions to honour the history of our local newspapers by retaining the historic front page masthead in each market so it felt seamless to readers.

Additionally, all page grids and colour palettes were aligned across markets, and a universal page flag structure was created to allow shared designs. Circular motifs were introduced into logos and columnist pictures to reflect the shape’s important role in our universal brand identity.

Simultaneously, the network launched all new ad sizes based on page percentages, including advertising which was engineered to work seamlessly into the new inside page flags. The structure of the flags was done in collaboration between the editorial design teams and advertising.

Last year’s network-wide implementation was a bold exercise in interdepartmental collaboration — across design studios, brand, product, and editorial teams. This heightened connection has allowed us to build proactive relationships, improve communications, and streamline processes and resources.

At USA Today Network, we are prioritising a greater connection across our brands and products. We are committed to equipping and empowering our readers with memorable, quality experiences as they navigate today’s top stories and content. 

About Glenann Godden

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