The social media team at Grand Valley State University has a responsibility to its followers to provide engaging insights into student life, serve as a marketing platform for the University, and to provide timely messaging for important events.

These myriad demands result in a varied and diverse feed of content; each post from a different organization, with its own message and visual language to stand out and keep things fresh. How can you encourage useful public health messaging to catch the eyes of its audience?

A splash of green in a sea of Blue™

The official colors for GVSU are Laker Blue, white, and black. When there’s only a single chromatic color to carry the weight of the University’s brand, it’s easy for content to look sort of samey.

Many designers at GVSU, in attempts to add greater color variation, often add in ever more shades of the same blue. Due to this tendency, it takes bending the rules a bit to really stand out in this ocean (or Great Lake) of blue shades.

Official color palette for GVSU circa 2020.
Grand Valley State University's official colors (c. 2020).

Given that these posts concern public health, colors familiar to those seen in medicine were chosen. While soft blues already feature throughout healthcare branding, they’re commonly paired with colors such as the sea green included below. A powder blue was also included to use for ancillary text.

Typeface Bio Sans Light was used for heading and body text.
Color palette and typeface utilized for this project.

Both of these colors provide an additional association with healthcare, as they’re used commonly as colors for medical scrubs. Lastly, a darker navy blue was added to both provide more contrast to graphics and imply a more serious tone to this vital public health messaging.

The shift in colors serves to differentiate this messaging from the rest of GVSU’s content, but stay aligned well enough with the official brand so that it can retain its credibility.

Pandemic icons, unmasked

People are afraid of needles. It’s a fear that many have, and it can make getting a shot an emotionally taxing affair. This alone can provide enough friction for some to not get a coronavirus vaccine altogether.

Knowing this, I’ve tried to toe the line between creating vaccine iconography with soft, rounded shapes without making them too cute.

Icons of common objects found in medicine and regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, such as vaccines, nasal swab tests, masks, a medical ID badge and other common emblems.
Iconography created for COVID-19 messaging.

Aside from the vaccines, this collection of icons also includes a swab test, masks, and a few symbols and ephemera generally found throughout medicine.

Putting it all together

Now that we have all the pieces in place, it’s time to show what they look like in concert. This section includes some samples of the branding at work.

Vaccine rollout phases

GVSU wanted to adapt the following graphic found in Michigan Department of Health and Human Services’ (MDHHS) Interim Prioritization Guidance packet, which outlined a preliminary schedule for the rollout of the newly developed COVID-19 vaccines:

This screenshot of a spreadsheet, while dense with useful information, was simply not optimized for sharing on social media platforms; it was streamlined into something that can provide information at a glance:

A graph titled State of Michigan: COVID-19 Vaccine Roll-Out Phases, featuring four horizontal bars representing the vaccine distribution phases.
The final version of the graphic, simplified and refined from the original source.

Clinics galore

This branding was also used for notifying the GVSU community of vaccine and testing clinics on campus, as shown here:

This time around we get to see a few of those sweet icons in action!