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Executing the Brand

Art direction for taking brand aligned photos

Diverse, authentic and compelling full-color imagery brings the “On my way to a better life” brand platform to life. The key is to align emotional elements of the brand with primary support signals and visual cues. Select images that authentically engage the viewer and speak directly. Individuals engaged in real action and in real context establish credibility, a sense of confidence and success. Arizona State University is a vibrant place, full of colorful emotion, iconic places and culture of innovation. Our imagery shows this vibrancy of life and opportunity best when in full color. Black and white/grayscale imagery is best reserved for historical purposes when color is not an option.

Visual cues to keep in mind

  • Does the imagery strike an emotional chord and capture a live event or moment?
  • Does the imagery of people feel natural and not too staged?
  • Is there an authenticity to the image, as if the camera was invisible to the subject?
  • Capture a sense of empowerment and control.
  • Look for individual and unique expressions of ASU’s thriving culture.
  • Get close and be direct with camera angles — no extreme angles to avoid distortion.
  • Natural light when possible — avoid the use of artificial light unless it can be balanced with natural light.

Human connection

“Smile appeal.” Research shows that seeing the smiling eyes and faces of others creates human connection and supports affinity-building. Because of the mirror neurons in our brains, images of smiling models produce more consumer joy and positive attitudes for the marketed product.*

*Berg, H., Söderlund, M., & Lindström, A. (2015). Spreading joy: Examining the effects of smiling models on consumer joy and attitudes. Journal of Consumer Marketing

General brand image guidelines



Below are examples of premier iconic brand images. Silhouettes allow viewers to envision themselves in any location. Our research consistently shows that audiences respond well to sunset and sunrise imagery, conveying new beginnings and optimism. Photos taken from a mountain or a roof give perspective and the feeling of being “on top of the world.” Arms in the air convey the sense of “victory.

sunset point


  • Pose includes "No. 1" hand gesture, indicating success, reinforcing top rankings and affinity for ASU.
  • Active reaching upward indicates ambition and confidence.
  • Brand colors captured in the bright golden sky connect the photo to other elements within the brand system that also use gold.
  • The skyline connects students to the city and the metro Phoenix experience.
sunset fork


  • Pose includes brand move of hand in a pitchfork gesture.
  • Actively reaching upward indicates ambition and confidence.
  • Brand colors captured in the bright golden sky connect the photo to other elements within the brand system that also use gold.
  • The skyline connects students to the city and the metro Phoenix experience.

Campus life

Campus life photography includes clubs, athletic games, events and a range of other activities experienced at ASU. Imagery is positive and engaging, including characteristics outlined in the success category whenever possible.

collaboration at table


  • Engaged with in dialogue, as evidenced by body direction facing one another.
  • Expressing positive emotion.
  • Photo taken close to the subjects to capture emotion and vivid expressions.


  • No activities going on.
  • Students look bored.


Visuals that highlight students in a “victory” moment of learning are most often successful. Opportunities to document moments like this include working with a professor, demonstrating an invention, solving a challenge or interaction within a group. Positive takeaways are one-on-one interaction with professors and peers, happy and fun emotion, hands-on learning and innovative spaces.

active participation


  • Hands-on project.
  • Positive sense of pride.
  • Include elements of the brand — ASU T-shirt, laptop sticker, maroon and gold colors, reusable water bottle, etc. 
  • Testing feedback is that people want to be a part of the moment.
faculty student


  • Engaged and pleased faculty is good.
  • Background is not showcasing innovative or interesting setting or highlights of the campus experience.
  • Not showcasing positive emotion of the student — can only see partial side of face — show either more of the face, or the back view.

School pride

Photos with crowds allow the viewer to imagine themselves being a part of the event. Maroon and gold apparel, Sparky and the pitchfork enhance the feeling of school pride.


sun devils fan


  • Gold.
  • Celebration.
  • Testing feedback is that people want to be a part of the crowd.


  • Tank tops, tied-up shirts, and short shorts should are to be avoided.
  • Avoid photographing visible undergarments.

Social, friends

These images should be natural and captured in the authentic moment. It is very difficult to stage these types of pictures and doing so is easily picked up by the viewer.

natural interaction


  • Positive engaged interaction with one another.
  • Natural, not staged.
faces not visible


  • Faces are not visible.
  • Looks staged.


Commencement is the culmination and celebration of all the hard work learners have done to build toward their goals. It is an excellent opportunity to show success at a key moment in their life and is one of the highest affinity moments in an ASU grad’s journey. 

Capturing “victory” moments such as exuberant waves, handshakes, smiles, hugs, jumping and shouting for joy communicate the positive emotion students and their families feel at graduation. These images consistently test well with many different audiences.

positive emotion


  • Victory pose.
  • Positive emotion of success and pride.
  • Inclusive of students from many backgrounds.
faculty speaker


  • Focus is on the faculty and administration, not on the student.


Photos that show students, faculty and staff using new technology, innovative collaborative methods and group interaction in modern classrooms and cutting-edge research settings.




  • Student focused on an innovative task in which they are creating new knowledge.
  • Subject selected is an elite scholar who won a very prestigious international scholarship.
  • Located in a lab space, subject wearing a lab coat.
  • Positive emotion from subject, face very visible.


  • Innovative space, but no focus on the student.
  • No emotion to connect with the viewer.

Socially embedded

Whether we participate in a volunteer project or a community event, ASU is involved socially and we aim to capture these unique moments of outreach. Learn more about ASU’s social embeddedness communication guidelines.



  • Student engaged in community activity.
  • Student on same level as the community member.
  • All subjects engaged with one another, showing active positive emotion and human connection.
  • Working on a critical challenge in the world  safe drinking water.
  • ASU branding represented in a built-in way on the subject's shirt.
busy crowd


  • Busy situation, no clear focus on one or two people having an engaging and meaningful interaction.
  • This may be a great volunteer event, but capturing the sign-in process isn’t the best moment to showcase.

Campus architecture

Our campuses are in different locations, each with its own look and feel, but basic aspects can be captured no matter the location. It is important to show the beautiful aspects of our campuses to individuals who may never have set foot on our campuses, or even in the state of Arizona. Showing green grass, plants and flowers, water and the surrounding desert mountains when in bloom all showcase the unique aspects of our community.

When taking photos of campus architecture they should be modern and shown at a unique angle, such as a low perspective. Taking photos during the school year and when class changes are occurring provides authentic moments of vibrant campus activity and life while students are out walking and socially interacting.

modern building


  • Modern building.
  • Interesting angle, looking upward.
  • Students engaged with one another.
  • Activity in foreground and background.
  • Includes sustainable transportation.
memorial union


  • Campus looks empty.
  • Taking photo on the opposite side of the building, which has a more modern look, would be better.
  • Tank tops, tied-up shirts, and short shorts are to be avoided.
  • Avoid photographing visible undergarments.

Creating a great photo assignment

At ASU, there is action on and off-campus every day. Our best photos show people in action pursuing a better life. Therefore, we will succeed by putting the photographer in the heart of the action.

  • Hands-on activities in which participants will be engaged in a preplanned active workshop in which they are using their hands to build, move or rearrange materials (brainstorming, performing skits, building prototypes, investigating a new material).
  • Active exploration of a new place in which participants are clearly somewhere other than campus in which they are measuring, drawing, photographing or otherwise capturing the details of the place for their studies. Off-campus research trips, community projects, internships, and study abroad trips all make for promising photos.
  • Leaders and groups in situations working with a team and the tools relevant to the area of research. If the research is not clearly visual, a posed portrait in which the photographer employs more creative approaches to lighting can bring the image to life.
  • Group celebrations of academic or athletic achievements including graduation and athletic events are promising opportunities to capture many Sun Devils celebrating the rewards of their hard work.


Professional portraits

Learn more about professional portraits (headshots) and find a time to stop by our studio.