Iowa State Memorial Union

Our New MU Campaign

Posted on January 16, 2020 at 11:09 AM by Kristin Erdman

Telling our story.

If you've heard of the Iowa State University Memorial Union, you know a little piece of our story just by our name. The building is a living memorial, a dream executed by Iowa State students to memorialize their fellow students who died in service to our country. That story is so important, and we honor a few more of the individuals memorialized in Gold Star Hall each fall in our Gold Star Hall Ceremony. But the MU is so much more than the walls that contain us, and we want to tell many of the other chapters that make up our story. And to do that, we needed some shared tools and language to speak with one voice.

Mission. Vision. Values.

We started by redefining our mission, vision, and values to more closely meet the needs of Iowa State students and our community. This process took many hours, many brains, and a few heated conversations, but we got there. Once we had our new mission, that helped us shape the direction we wanted to take our new campaign. But before we could get to the fun brainstorming part, we had to continue to define ourselves a bit.

So, who are we?

After reviewing past research and talking to current and former MU staff members, student employees, students, MU Advisory Board members, and pretty much anyone else we could pull aside in the hallway, here's who folks think we are:

  • A building on campus
  • A living memorial
  • Where Panda is
  • The "living room" of Iowa State
  • Program coordinators and event planners
  • Memory makers
  • Customer service experts
  • The people behind the scenes getting this done
  • The face of the University to visitors and community members
  • A little bit of everything
  • It's hard to explain
  • Depends on who you ask
What do we wish people knew about the MU?

This question especially resonated with our staff, who often feel as though folks don't know enough about what they do.

  • All the services we provide beyond the food court
  • The existence of the Workspace, CyBowl and Billiards, and the M-Shop
  • That student orgs, leadership programs, arts & entertainment are all managed by MU staff members
  • That is takes a lot of money, effort, and staff members to literally keep the roof above our heads
What makes the MU different than any other building on campus?

As other buildings on campus start to add lounge spaces and food options, we wanted to know what continues to be unique to the MU.

  • It's where community members come to campus
  • It's a hub for student orgs
  • Where you come to do what you want to do, not what you have to do
  • Connect with people here
  • Life outside the classroom and books
  • Where memories form because experiences here aren’t repetitive classes
  • Where you get to do your own thing
  • Concerts, lectures, art classes, comedy
  • Centers for culture (ISSO, SAFE, the Center, Vets) – bring like-minded people together to form community, which is also true of student orgs, leadership experiences, multicultural center
  • It’s a living memorial to those who made the greatest sacrifice
  • Alumni remember the MU fondly for the relationships formed here, the experiences they had, and the Iowa State traditions
What do we need our new campaign to do?

As we developed our new campaign, this is the question we came back to time and again to keep us focused. The list is pretty demanding.

  • Be reflective of our multifaceted organization (a building AND programming)
  • Convey a unified purpose and establish a visual identity for the entire MU, but also let individual areas keep their established identities
  • Provide clear and consistent messaging
  • Give students ownership of the MU
  • Keep the memorial part of the MU in the forefront of visitors’ minds
  • Create room for storytelling
  • Show the value of the MU to ISU students
Visual Identity

Once we had this list defined, we were ready to start the fun part of the process: Our visual identity. This part of the process took many hours, many iterations, many tweaks, and lots of going back to our defined list of goals, but here's where we ended up.


Pretty simple, huh? Just a simple shape, looks kind of like a conversation bubble. But the shape alone is already starting to suggest conversations, community, and sharing stories.

Then, we added a little text.


And in doing that, we add context. By adding "@ My MU", we are checking those goals off that checklist. We are giving students ownership, and showing value, and emphasizing storytelling.

Then, we place that graphic next to some of our established identities.

And now we are reflecting a building and programming and really strengthening that tie between the services and programming we provide and the building itself. 

We love the graphic because it's so flexible. You'll see it used like this:

But also like this:

And maybe even all tiled out into a pattern:

The versatility of the visual identity is what makes it so perfectly suited to our new messaging.


But a campaign isn't just visual. We needed a bit of text to really bring everything together. So we went back to that list of goals, and we eliminated the ones we felt we achieved with the visual identity piece alone, and we were left with these:

  • Be reflective of our multifaceted organization (a building AND programming)
  • Provide clear and consistent messaging
  • Keep the memorial part of the MU in the forefront of visitors’ minds
  • Create room for storytelling
  • Show the value of the MU to ISU students

With that list in mind, we went back into brainstorming mode. We looked at the taglines of other universities, other student unions, and even other entities on campus. We also went back to that list of answers when we asked what makes the MU different. And one word started to emerge:


After that, it was pretty easy to find a tagline that explains what makes the MU special, whether we are talking about our building, our services, or our programming.

And there we have it, our new #MemoriesMadeatMyMU campaign. You've probably seen elements of this around our building already, and you'll see lots more in the weeks and years to come. We can't wait to hear about the memories you've made at the Memorial Union, so drop us a line here or on our social media channels so that we can share your story. 





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