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June 14, 2021

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Brandcenter students design award-winning marketing for The Commons at VCU

Recent Brandcenter graduates Lex Coelho (XD, 2021) and Chris Cole (AD, 2021) are the creative minds behind the award-winning marketing for the University Student Commons at Virginia Commonwealth University—now known simply as The Commons.

Coelho and Cole, who worked part-time as Marketing & Design Graduate Assistants in The Commons during their years as Brandcenter students, developed a new brand identity and website for The Commons. Both pieces won first place in the 2021 Steal this Idea competition: a national contest sponsored by ACUI (Advancing Campus Community), the national professional association for college union and student activities professionals. Nearly 300 entries from college student unions were evaluated in the competition based on concept, design, content, and effectiveness.

“Almost immediately, the team recommended adopting The Commons as the name of the departments and dropping the acronym USC&A,” said Laura O’Brien, Marketing & Special Events Manager in The Commons and founder of uncommon creative, the internal creative agency at The Commons.

When it came to developing the new brand, Coelho and Cole found inspiration within the Commons building itself.

“We wanted a mark that was interesting and that The Commons could own,” said Cole. “The Ram Horns statue that sits just outside the building served as the perfect inspiration for our mark as it was both iconic and true to The Commons.”

In early 2020, the marketing team unveiled The Commons brand book, followed by the launch of in November 2020. The website is fully integrated with RamsConnect, VCU's student engagement platform.

“I’m so thankful for the opportunity that Laura and Dr. Greene [director of University Student Commons & Activities] gave us to tackle such a massive creative task,” said Coelho. “The curriculum at the Brandcenter equips all of us to be strategic, creative, and confident with any project, no matter the scale. And in this case, Brandcenter prepared us to be able to win awards for projects we didn’t even think we were qualified to be leading.”

The Commons marketing team also won third place in Steal this Idea’s interior/wall art student category for the “Find Your” Campaign, which is currently on display in the atrium of The Commons building and is the featured campaign on The Commons’ website. Additionally, the team created new branding for Intercultural Festival, a student-organized event established in 2003 to celebrate the diversity of VCU and the surrounding community, and a new brand book and website for Weeks of Welcome, the annual series of events and programs for new students.

Read more about the Commons project at uncommon creative, which is now hiring two graduate assistants and five graduate-level student employees for Fall 2021.