Sanford Underground Research Facility The Institute for Underground Science at SURF

The Institute for Underground Science at SURF will be a world-class, one-of-a-kind hub for scientific research, events, collaboration, and more. Rooted in the renowned Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, SD, where physics, biology, geology, and engineering research take place a mile below ground—The Institute is a seedling concept of sorts. Although stakeholders have established a solid framework for the organization and plan to move a portion of SURF’s public programming initiatives under The Institute’s brand umbrella, its further development hinges on fundraising efforts that will ultimately allow it to attract the attention of sponsors, establish a physical presence, and bring the physical place that will eventually house its program to life.

As a newly formed organization, The Institute had a clear primary objective: Raise enough funds to build a structure in which to house The Institute’s core activities, i.e., conferences, programming, scientific collaborations, etc. But to complete this mission, The Institute needed to first establish a visual and verbal identity for itself as well as a website through which it could generate awareness, promote its vision, and encourage donations.

Building off this fresh identity, we crafted a website to tell The Institute’s story to would-be donors, scientists, and the public. We transformed an ethereal concept into a tangible brand with a clear path forward.

A Clear, Concise Story & Mission Statement

Aten’s first task was to help The Institute to better understand and articulate its goals and to determine what—and how—it wanted to communicate to the world.

To inform decisions regarding the brand’s visual and verbal identity, Aten devised a series of workshops to establish attributes, phased objectives, and more for The Institute. We also employed virtual engagements—using a verb/target/outcome framework—to devise a mission statement for the organization, ultimately landing on: “Unite the global underground science community to inspire discovery.”

Identity and Branding

When it came to its visual and verbal identity, The Institute was starting from scratch. In addition to characterizing The Institute as a global leader and advocate for science, this new identity needed to allow for integration of the names of would-be marquee sponsors.

Leveraging workshop insights, Aten and The Institute’s stakeholders settled on a naming convention that would inspire a key donor to see how they could be recognized in the name: The (sponsor organization name) Institute for Underground Science at SURF.

In addition to creating a logo that could incorporate donor recognition, another key goal for the new brand was the ability to endorse ongoing programming, such as conferences and scientific talks. By providing documented brand guidelines that can allow The Institute’s brand to begin building credibility through ongoing initiatives, the new flexible identity will allow the organization to grow over time.

Aten further fleshed out The Institute’s brand, devising a logo, brand colors/fonts, and more, along with documentation that would enable staff to retain brand guidelines going forward. The logo is an arrangement of bold chevrons interacting with one another to represent the collaborative and collective aspects of The Institute. We paired the selected mark with typography that prominently displays where a future donor would insert their name.

Website and Fundraising Vehicle

Until The Institute could build a physical space, the newly formed organization needed a website that would tell its story to donors and the scientific community.

Based on this newly established identity, Aten created a simple yet highly targeted Drupal website to tell The Institute’s story. The clean and concise site explained what The Institute will be, highlighted the impact it will have, and inspired people to donate to this vision. Easily managed and updated thanks to Mercury Editor, our bespoke drag-and-drop Drupal publishing solution, the site offers the flexibility to grow and evolve along with The Institute itself.

Launching the Institute

SURF celebrated the launch of The Institute’s brand by hosting a formal event with 100 invitees, most of whom are local dignitaries and large donors. To make a fantastic first impression, we designed a series of 6-foot banners to display throughout the event’s space.

Each banner prominently features the logo, branding elements, and images authentically conveying The Institute’s vision for collaboration, inspiration, and discovery among diverse groups of people. The designs are aimed to generate excitement, interest, and support from The Institute’s network of donors.

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