New toolkit a Rosetta stone for MIT’s vernacular

Aimed at standardizing MIT’s language and its image, website is also a trove of quirky trivia

Who was MIT’s president during World War I? How many graduate resident tutors (GRTs) are there? What’s the difference between “Course” and “course”? What are the Pantone colors for the MIT red and gray logo?

MIT has a language of its own. For those lost in translation, the recently released MIT Communicators Toolkit ( is a handy guide. In early November, the MIT Publishing Services Bureau (PSB) unveiled the Communicators Toolkit website, considered an almanac of MIT symbols, abbreviations, facts, and styles for MIT communications staff.

The Toolkit compiles several resources, such as the MIT Graphic Identity site, MIT Facts, MIT Libraries, and even MIT’s Wikipedia page, to help the MIT brand be represented consistently through web design and print production.

Monica Lee, Director of the PSB, refers to the site as the “communicators’ town square.” It offers an Idea Exchange, where site visitors can post a comment or question for the PSB. As of Thursday night, the Idea Exchange contained eight posts, ranging from a discussion about molecular animation to general congratulations for the creators of this new resource. Additionally, the Exchange encourages networking — Lee says communications staff members “love to compare notes with their peers” when designing a project.

Earlier this week, Lee said 46 people had created a profile on the Idea Exchange page in order to post comments and network with other communications staff; she hopes that number will reach 200. According to Lee, anyone, including students, can register.

In fact, several student publication have turned to the PSB for its services, including the Department of Architecture’s journal, thresholds, and the MIT Undergraduate Research Journal. The MIT Energy Club also asked the PSB for advise while promoting its Energy Conference.

Founded in 1998, the PSB guides departments and external vendors through their projects and ensures MIT’s branding standards are met.

“While student projects tend to be print projects, our services focus on website development, use of social media, and email marketing as well,” Lee said.

Other offerings on the Toolkit include tips for creating an effective Twitter or Facebook account (“Your username should be as short as possible,” for example), posts for upcoming communications workshops, guidelines for the proper use of the MIT name, and the entirety of MIT’s nondiscrimination clause, which must be included on all MIT sites that “describe MIT programs and are intended for prospective students or employees.”

The Toolkit is “something I’ve wanted to do for several years,” Lee said. This summer, it finally became a reality as work began to aggregate communications resources into one site. Lee said the PSB relied on “focus groups of communications staff at different levels of experience” to find out what its audience needed on the site.

Now that the site has been online for a month, Lee is pleased with the overall product: “I see it as a need and it seems to be meeting that need.”

“The Institute realized that it was not reasonable to require engineers and scientists, artists and administrators to be expert at producing publications and websites,” the PSB website claims.

For the record, Richard C. Maclaurin was the MIT President from 1909 to 1920; there are approximately 80 GRTs on campus; “Course” is an “organized curriculum leading to a specific degree”, whereas “course” is a “specific subject or class,” as defined by the Toolkit; and the red and gray colors of the MIT logo may be found using Pantone #201 and #424, respectively.