Higher Ed Brand Identity: Colorado

by | Dec 20, 2021 | Branding, Graphic Design, Logos

Higher Ed Branding in The Centennial State

Colorado is a state that has a surprising amount of insitutions. Given its resources, position in the United States, and population concentrations, it would make sense that there shouldn’t be as many as there are. The branding across all of these institutions does pull in many of the trends that you see in other states with the exception of a higher frequency of animal-related designs. This trend is evident of a cultural touchpoint that merits more investigation.

Some notable takeaways:

  • Design sensibility ranges from exceptionally-produced to appearing under-produced
  • 23 brands using serif typography
  • A fair mix of icons that represent animals and landscapes.
  • A surprising mix of abstract designs

The brand marks featured below left an impression with me. The gallery of 42 logos is displayed at the bottom of the page.

Let me know what you think on Twitter or LinkedIn!


Landscape designs come with the territory, pun intended. At least 13 of the institutions in Colorado use some variation of landscape or mountain range.
Mountain ranges are relatively easy to illustrate and maintain their metaphors through various styles. Most mountain ranges are flat and single-color. However, the Western Colorado University logo chose a different path and has added depth, dimension, and texture to create a more dynamic presentation. This style choice, especially considering the limited space the “W” letter has…is a challenging feat to pull off. Their brand is more prominent and intriguing, subsequently. Comparing it to the other flat logos assigns a totally different (and potentially better) experience to a prospective student.

Flat single-color mountain range designs, however, can still be effective if designed well. Colorado Mountain College has a very minimalist-driven design that commands a lot of attention through color, position, and the few elements it uses in the icon – that also tells a story.

Adams State University falls into the cliche choices seen throughout the trend with the mountain and river combination.


Animal-inspired logos are always fun to look at because the illustrative style between a given set of logos is usually different enough to be unique. There are some common trends concerning illustration style, including front-perspective view, side-perspective view, occasional three-quarter angles, two-to-three solid colors, and an emotional expression. We’ve all seen athletics logos before, and there are no surprises here.
The institutions spotlighted here utilize their animal-inspired brands as both the institution’s identity and its athletics division. This choice is a fairly common combination seen in Higher Ed but is still not as prevalent.
The upside to using an athletics-minded logo is that the design is usually well-designed. The downside is that an athletics-minded logo can be considered exclusionary to students who do not participate in sports and can create the perception that athletics takes priority over academics. Sadly, the latter possibility is an overall perspective shared throughout many Higher Ed institutions.


Abstract designs come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and styles. It’s always exciting to see when a state’s higher ed sector executes abstract designs wisely. Colorado, surprisingly, has a decent range of abstract design styles that skew more towards minimalism. Abstract designs don’t always skew towards minimalism, but when you see this style trend in a concentrated area, it creates many questions, mainly about the awareness of design in culture. For example, suppose all abstract logos in Colorado are minimalist. In that case, it’s plausible to suggest that the ‘spirit’ of the design culture either heavily favors this style, the style is already prevalent, or there is a lack of awareness of other abstract styles to consider.
Colorado Northwestern Community College arguably has the most dynamic brand amongst them all. Compared to Colorado Technical University, while it has more elements, it also tells a complete story. This execution does not necessarily mean that the more elements you have, the better the narrative. Colorado Technical University leans into the mountain range cliche but executes it more intriguingly. Given the growing scale of the elements, the narrative about growth and completion of the whole object/whole self becomes apparent as you move upward. Lamar is a plant or flower of some kind. Aurora is a play on a globe with sweeping lines that create movement and animation in an otherwise static design.

Take a look at the brands below and share your thoughts with us on Twitter! #CommCentered