Higher Ed Brand Identity: South Dakota

by | May 8, 2021 | Branding, Graphic Design, Logos

Higher Ed Branding in The Mount Rushmore State

South Dakota does not have a lot of Higher Ed institutions. But, what institutions it does have represent a diverse range of branding solutions. It was refreshing to see a spectrum of designs that include visual metaphor, abstraction, and contemporary-minimalist solutions.

Some notable takeaways:

  • Blue is used the most frequently.
  • Serif typography is the most popular.

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

The gallery of 19 logos is displayed at the bottom of the page. Let me know what you think on Twitter or LinkedIn!


The Black Hills State University logo is an interesting abstract solution. It uses basic geometric forms and renders them in a mix of soft-gradient to full-flat colors. The composition of the hills feels arbitrary and the two competing green “hills” positioned opposite each other create opposition and may hurt the visual flow and focal point of the overall design. The typography is delicately composed, but like the motifs above it also has some challenges with focus and element placement. It’d be interesting to see variations on the “hills” motifs that represent different areas of the university that, when you strip out the text and connect them together, they make a panoramic that could be used in some really creative ways. 


Monograms are quite popular in Higher Ed branding. Monograms also take a lot of skill, nuance, and typographic instinct to get correct. The monograms featured here are well-considered, composed, and designed. Monograms typically work so well because they reduce the amount of total visual information by merging letterforms, which creates a more concentrated icon. Depending on brand maturation and application usage, they become truly definitive and eventually may not rely on the actual name of the institution in order to be effective.

Tribal Land-Grant Institutions

Tribal land-grant institutions, from a branding design perspective, are fascinating. As an admirer of Native American art and style, I would argue that institutions such as these can have the most visually impressive and metaphor-rich brand identity solutions. The immersive history behind these symbols gives so much depth and meaning. The designs are visually articulate, detailed, and every choice made in their design has such deep purposes. Perhaps what is most intriguing to me is that these symbols represent so many people and cultures. A typical Higher Ed institution brand or seal can never be as transcendent as these symbols. In fact, you can’t even really compare.