Higher Ed Brand Identity: New Zealand

Higher Ed Brand Identity: New Zealand

by | Dec 5, 2021 | Branding, Graphic Design, International Institutions

At the recent Redefining Value: Key issues in HE Marketing, Recruitment and Identity conference, the future of higher education institutions in Australia, New Zealand, and beyond were put into focus. While my presentation in the panel event focused on university branding for Australian institutions, my co-panelist shared her thoughts on branding from the New Zealand perspective. After having learned about the similarities and differences in branding between the two countries, I was inspired to write a post focused on the very few New Zealand institutions.

Some notable takeaways:

  • Only 8 institutions in the country.
  • Blue is the dominant color being used.
  • All but one institution has a shield icon.

The highlighted brands below were designs that stood out to me.

The gallery of 8 logos is displayed at the bottom of the page. Let me know what you think on Twitter or LinkedIn!


The seven shield icons representing each of the New Zealand universities share similarities with other shield icons found in the higher ed sector. It is worth noting, though, that though Massey contains a shield within its brand, I consider it to be more of a “crest” or a “coat of arms” than a shield. For the purposes of this review, though, I will consider it an addition to the shield style. 

When compared to each other, though, there are obvious differences. Four of the shield icons carry a banner underneath the point of the shield serving both narrative and technical purposes. Of the four that have banners, only three contain text. Text within the banner serves to complete the narrative of the visual metaphor that sits above it, even if the text is in a different language. The text serves the narrative and augments the overall purpose of the identity. Massey University’s banner is empty and relies on its design elements to create center-vertical alignment, a base for the elements that sit above it, retaining a 3-step downward eye flow, and keeping all of the elements within an invisible rectangular frame. The design of the banners in relation to the primary icon they serve is also important from a stylistic perspective. The University of Otago’s banner is in its own distinct style, which may have been a choice based on historical characteristics or merely serve as a stark visual contrast.

The Victoria University of Wellington brand solution stands apart from the rest because of its minimalist style. It contains fewer elements and those elements are mostly simple geometric shapes. While it still being an enclosed design can still affect its scalability, it’s not to the extent of the others.

Serifs and Sans-Serifs

New Zealand splits typeface style practically down the middle. Four logos feature serifs and the remainder feature sans-serifs. Considering that all the logos except AUT feature shields, there is not necessarily any trend or correlation to matching a serif style or sans-serif style to a particular shield type. The argument can be made though that more minimalist shield designs pair better with sans-serifs versus serifs. The University of Auckland sets itself apart from this argument, however.

Overall and regardless of style, the type compositions are well-considered and optimize readability (desire to read something) and legibility (actual ability to read something based on the clarity of its design.) Each logo, except Lincoln and AUT, is composed in a block-justified format. Otago mostly fits into this format, but diverges slightly with the word “of.”

Te Reo Māori

Personally, I like seeing different languages composed in typefaces that are commonly used, like Times New Roman or Arial. It’s refreshing to see basic typefaces gain some energy and appeal when representing a different culture or language. I think it is a wonderful point of inclusivity on behalf of the universities in New Zealand to intentionally include Te Reo Māori, the Māori language. Māori is one of three official languages of New Zealand and is considered endangered. Including Te Reo Māori as comprehensively as they are is a clear signal that saving the language is important to each institution and the country overall. Please note that AUT, while not including Te Reo Māori in their logo does feature it on their website (“Auckland University of Technology, Te Wānanga Aronui o Tāmaki Makau Rau.”) Overall, a wonderful recognition of the Māori culture.