Carnegie Mellon University

Although Carnegie Mellon's College of Engineering is one of the leading research and innovation institutions in the world, the Pittsburgh-based university doesn’t share the same prestigious reputation as MIT or Stanford. Governments, large corporations and NGOs weren’t considering CMU as a partner to solve their hardest problems. CMU’s method of “advanced collaboration” broke down and distributed complex issues into specialized projects and then reconstructed those work streams into a cohesive solution. After identifying and defining this unique problem-solving process, it was translated into photography, video and engineering case studies.

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Expressing a Method of Innovation

Increasing Perceived Value

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) College of Engineering is a well-established institution that, in addition to education, partners with governments, corporations, NGOs and other entities across disciplines to address complex engineering problems. Despite CMU’s proven track record for creating numerous solutions in this area, it struggled to be recognized in the same high regard as Stanford, MIT and other top-tier Ivy League universities. CMU leadership sought to elevate public perception of the College of Engineering in order to attract more project-based partnerships and increase this source of revenue for the university.

Identifying Process as Product

Combo’s strategy teams visited the CMU campus to conduct in-person research on what gave the college’s problem-solving process its distinct value. Through interviews with engineering professors, fellows, and PhD candidates, Combo strategists were able to identify CMU’s unique approach and define it as “advanced collaboration”: a large-scale problem is broken down into its constituent parts, which are then assigned to experts in each of the relevant fields, and finally brought back together to assemble into one big solution. Understanding CMU’s hypercollaborative process as its unique product offering became the basis for a strategic plan to reframe CMU as the place to go to solve some of today’s most pressing engineering problems.

Expressing Advanced Collaboration

Working closely together, Combo strategists and designers began to put together both the written language and a design system to effectively market CMU as a premier think tank and problem-solving institution. The Combo design team then concepted and created images in order to visualize these projects, building out a visual world that brought the idea of advanced collaboration to life and communicated its principles through a complete design system.

Creating Images for Carnegie Mellon

Expanding from the initial brief, Combo’s design team has continued over the past four years, exclusively providing images, photos, GIFs and art direction for visual asset creation.

This initiative, by three world-class organizations, is emblematic of the advanced level of collaboration we practice to drive breakthrough results.
James H. Garrett Jr., Dean of College of Engineering