Higher Ed Branding in The Grand Canyon State
Considering its placement within the United States, I did not expect Arizona to have as many higher ed institutions as it does – let alone a fresh range of visual diversity in their brand identities. The Arizona community college system’s flexible identity is particularly inspired and engaging. Take a look at the branding trends in Arizona below.
Some notable takeaways:
- A fair amount of shield icons.
- More blue than red, surprisingly.
- Slightly over half of the logos use a sans-serif typeface.
The highlighted brands below were designs that stood out to me.
Surprisingly, there are few shield designs from institutions in Arizona. However, of what is available, the designs are very clean, contemporary, and inching more towards a more minimalistic approach. While these two examples do have some motifs that are delicately articulate, they are still elements that, in comparison to a “classic” shield logo are still less ornate. Additionally, the colors found in these two designs are intriguing and deviate from the traditional approach to color usage.
Seal designs are the type of designs that make you feel like you’ve seen them all after only seeing one. That’s not to say these two examples, or any for that matter, are poor designs – they are just limited in options and that is what creates the stagnation. The Northcentral and Carrington logos feature typography that is still legible, even at that scale, which demonstrates a lot of masterful consideration toward legibility.
Abstract logos in Arizona run the range of visual diversity: organic/sketch, mechanical/geometric, and minimalist/expressive. The Arizona Western College logo has a lot of expressive value and personality. It absolutely stands out amongst the other institution logos just by sheer virtue of contrast. The individual sun ray motifs mirror each other and look symmetrical, which does not take away from anything. The “AW” initials molded into the shape of a mountain is a nice touch with the half-circle negative space surrounding the intials giving them meaningful focus. Ironically, the sun ray motifs point outward (as they should if properly serving the concept of the sun) but an opportunity lies with the beginning of the rays, starting from the center, to create some inward-pointing motion to reinforce the focal point.
The Arizona Christian logo icon is a bit of a cliche in the geoemetric icon design community. If you are a designer, you’ve seen this before. Otherwise, nice triangular design and composition overall.
The Universal Technical Institute is a reasonable corporate approach to branding. Merge the letters to create a monogram and visually separate each letter by color to create the full acronym. Unfortunately, if you’re in medical circles “UTI” is not a very desireable acronym. Tagline is great.
It is reasonable to suggest that community colleges, if represented as a state-wide network of satellites, should have a clear and consistent systems-approach to branding. Alternatively, it is also reasonable to suggest that an individual community college within a larger network should have its own distinct branding. Wherever your perspective, from state to state, it is inconsistent.
Arizona’s approach to branding its in-network institutions is clean, consistent, and relatively unique given the systems-approach. Each institution has its own icon and color. In spite of this, they may feel diluted or feel represented at half-potential. This approach though builds into a bigger identity, which may create more total brand equity and pride from its student base. In the future, we’ll compare this approach to other state-driven community colleges in other states. Not all states “own” the community colleges that reside within them, so this approach is very specific.
Take a look at the brands below and share your thoughts with us on Twitter! #CommCentered