Technology had democratised higher education. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC’s) now enabled anyone, anywhere to take a university course for free. When leading universities including Stanford, Princeton and MIT launched their versions, The New York Times termed 2012 “The year of the MOOC”.

FutureLearn – the UK’s first MOOC – was founded in partnership with the Open University. The team were eager to launch but needed a brand that could do four things: live online and in print; be easy to use and build on; be understood by as broad an audience as possible; and clearly convey the strategic idea, ‘learning for life’.

“FutureLearn’s mission is to offer courses to as many people as possible, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever their background and ability.”

Simon Nelson, CEO, FutureLearn

Lean and fast
Working in a collaborative and streamlined way sped up the process. We met twice weekly and acted immediately on feedback, devising a distinctive and accessible system. The logo, featuring a stepped hero icon with hidden ‘F’, reinforces the onwards and upwards journey of learning and subtly points to progress.

A gradual palette
The hero icon was built on a set grid, allowing FutureLearn to create branded icons on demand, in an efficient way in future. A colour gradient, rather than a palette, gives in-house designers a wide range of values to choose from. The gradient also aids navigation within the interface, communicating where a user is – in their journey.

Together with a concise brand story, this toolkit formed what we called a ‘Minimum Viable Brand’, and it’s served FutureLearn well.

Today, it’s a thriving platform. Since launch in October 2013 learners have taken more than six million classes. Learners can choose from over 300 courses created by 83 partners from all over the world, including top universities such as Kings College London and specialist organisations like the European Space Agency and The British Museum. In 2016, it registered is three millionth learner.