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Graphic Device

The university’s primary graphic device is a combination of overlapping boxes containing photography, text and brand colours. This unites our toolkit elements and creates a modular visual language that makes up our distinct style.

These boxes are used to create clear space for headlines and call-out text, define the edges of photography and contain fields of colour. In layout, they are used together to create visual interest, balance and movement. When used thoughtfully, they are the most effective tool for conveying the Ryerson University brand.


Depending on application, audience and message, our graphic device can be used simply, with a single box, or it can create a complex collage of imagery and colour. Generally speaking, simpler layouts will emphasize content and complex layouts will emphasize tone. An effective layout will find the right balance.

Overlapping frames are integral to our visual language. When designing for the Ryerson brand, start simple — all boxes should have a purpose.


The university’s graphic device uses a combination of overlapping boxes containing photography, text and brand colours. The following guide shows how to combine all of the elements effectively.

1. Type is primary: start a design by considering your text

  • Always start with headlines on your top layer, and consider a colour frame to draw attention
  • When combining type with boxes, give comfortable margins around the text. Type should feel fitted within a box
  • Boxes are always rectangular and never take on a modular shape to contour a paragraph of text
  • If using a box behind text, it must always be filled with colour, not photography
  • Select colours that contrast with the type for legibility

2. Add photography and colour as needed to complement your message



  • Boxes filled with colour provide texture and balance to a layout
  • Use colour to complement photography or increase visual interest
  • Select colours that create contrast without overwhelming or competing for attention
  • Balance boxes that sit within the edges of the layout with boxes that bleed off


  • When possible, we strongly recommend using one, strong image
  • Use multiple images only if necessary and create interest with various sizes, content (combining city images, campus shots, people, etc.) and scales
  • All photography exists within a box, including those that are full-bleed in layout (where the document edge is the box)
  • Boxes can be used to create thoughtful cropping of imagery
  • Depending on the application, photography can be used to complement primary messages, or in the background for texture

Graphic Device Don'ts

When using the graphic device, please avoid the following techniques.