Higher Ed Branding in The Pelican State
Louisiana is the first state encountered in this series where the range in branding style is very limited. It is surprising given the amount of higher education institutions in the state. It may be more telling of the state’s culture more than anything. Nevertheless, it is a unique case study of how visual differentiation can empower your institution and help you fight your competition…or not. The Lousiana State University branding is perhaps the most identifiable from a national point of view. Its design is very unique in that it uses a customized typeface and a rich purple and yellow color scheme. In reviewing these solutions, you can see a few institutions trying to hew closer to the LSU execution.
Some notable takeaways:
- 31 logos used serif typography
- 10 use varying shades of blue
- 20 use all caps for the institution names
- 3 logos use abstraction
- 9 use no icons
The highlighted brands below were designs that stood out to me.
Logotypes are great solutions for cumbersome names or a need to names or titles very clear. In pursuit of resolving unwieldy names or clarity, though, becomes something much more distintctly obvious even to the untrained eye: type composition. The best logotype solutions are intensely composed typographic compositions. The trained eye can see the decisions being made in the size of the letters, style of the typeface, the spacing between the letters (kerning), and the spacing between ines (leading). The Grambling logo is one of those logos that a designer likely debated over for a while, making dozens if not hundreds of iterations in the process. It is set in all upper case or small caps, which enhances clarity by removing shifting distractions from ornamentation with lower case letters that move the eye in a jarring up-and-down pattern. Having a clean baseline and cap-height (flat line above the capital and small capital letters) enhances the style and impact of the design. Loyola’s brand is set in a block-justified composition, which does enhance clarity with respect to looking at the solution as a whole object, but the amount of letters jammed together in a tight space can make for some visibility issues. Loyola handles it well here, though. Northwestern State is a kind of unwieldy title to work with in a design, but their type composition seems to be designed for quick impact and replicablity with college and department names in the place of “University of Louisiana.”
Fleur De Lis
Historians say the Fleur De Lis has a troubled history. The symbol itself has a deep and immersive history in Lousiana culture. In 2008, the Governor of Louisiana signed into law the use of the Fleur De Lis as the state’s official symbol. Historically, the symbol originiated from French royalty and has been used to also represent Catholic saints, and more. The symbol as used in Louisiana’s higher education institutions benefits from a number of different style interpretations, which keeps the symbol connected to its historical symbolism while also being distinct and unique amongst competitors in the marketplace. Considering the heavy use of the Fleur De Lis not just in higher ed, but in all manner of representation in the state (be it in buildings, state flag, used by private companies, non-profits, etc.) it stands to reason that this symbol may be over-used and its meaning watered down. Nevertheless, institutional connection to history, heritage, and culture, is important to establish especially for states where these three aspects are so highly valued.
LSU’s brand identity was built with style and scalability in mind. With the size of the institution, scalability is necessary. The overarching theme of the brand identity (according to the LSU style guide) is “Fierce for the Future.” On page 19 of their branding style guide, headline examples are featured and include suggestions such as “fierce commands respect” and “Fierce is a force to be reckoned with.” When it comes to connecting emotional themes to visual elements, the concept of “fierce” is conveyed in their solution through the hard angles and tight curves of the letters, the thickness of the letters suggests strength and steadiness, and the color palette has a sense of energy. Overall, the thematic elements of the strategy work well with the visual execution. Definitely check out the branding guide!