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Brand Style Guide


Photography is one of the most powerful elements of any design; therefore, great care should be taken when creating and selecting imagery. Photographs should impart emotion and information, giving the viewer a sense of what Vanderbilt is like and what we value.

Artistically, the quintessential Vanderbilt photo is one that has:

  • predominantly warm (yellow/gold) colors,
  • saturated colors,
  • bright and airy tones,
  • shallow depth of field,
  • side or back lighting with a distinctive artistic style,
  • an unstaged and authentic approach, except for portraits and photos in laboratories.

Photo collage


Photographs that are used prominently in a design should follow these guidelines. However, not every photograph has to meet these specifications. In a collage of photographs, vary the color and tone to keep the overall design interesting.

The content of photographs should reflect themes such as community, diversity, cross-disciplinary research and care for the whole person. When creating and selecting photos, keep the following guidelines in mind:

  • People of varying races, genders and interests should be the focus of the images, because we are a diverse and inclusive community.
  • Avoid using images of people alone, except when trying to convey focus or drive.
  • Students and faculty should be shown in a variety of situations, not just in the classroom, because we educate the whole person.
  • Students and faculty should be shown focused on discovery and innovation in the lab or field, because we foster collaborative cross-disciplinary research.


Vanderbilt’s beautiful campus is an integral part of the university's identity and appeal, and photographs of campus should strategically frame that beauty to align with our messaging framework. However, campus photos should usually include not just lovely buildings and trees, but also happy people connecting with each other.

  • Vanderbilt is consistently ranked as having the “happiest students.” Our photography should reflect that happy, optimistic, engaged attitude.
  • Our photos should also reflect the value that we place on collaboration and connection by not focusing on a person alone on the campus.
  • Photographs of campus should use warm colors as much as possible—especially yellow/gold—to reinforce feelings of happiness, optimism and energy; to connect to the renowned beauty of fall on our campus, which is a registered arboretum; and to represent Vanderbilt’s official school color (gold).
  • When possible, photos should contain sunbursts or backlit elements.

campus photos

Lab Environment and Research Photos

In contrast to campus photographs and portraits, photographs of research should employ a cooler color palette. Blues convey the sense of a subject being high-tech and cutting-edge. People in such photos should appear to be engaged and focused. More drama and contrast in the lighting may be used to focus the viewer’s attention on the subject and convey a sense of discovery.

lab photos

Black-and-White Photos

The use of black-and-white photos (or photos with a color overlay) can help add balance and unity to a design. Black-and-white images are best used when text is being layered on top of the image. This can add interest to a design while still emphasizing the overlaid text. The content of the image should be directly related to the content of the piece and provide further context, strengthening the piece overall. Because we want to convey the warmth and vibrancy of Vanderbilt’s people and campus, we discourage the use of black-and-white photos as prominent stand-alone elements.

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