Higher Ed Branding in The Mountain State
The collection of Higher Ed institution logos in West Virginia offers quite a range; a little something for everyone. Ranging from logotypes to combination logos featuring abstract elements, monograms, and illustrated campus buildings, many of the creative choices in Higher Ed branding are represented here.
Some notable takeaways:
- A fair amount of solutions are primarily monochromatic, not a lot of color expression. Note: this does take into consideration that the logo I sampled was intentionally put on their website, any given logo may have more than one color theme.
- Subtle changes or modifications to typography to cultivate personality.
- Typeface styles are dominantly serif-style.
- Many designs feel very reserved because of either flat, stationary, or what could be considered to be under-developed traits. Inversely, such reservation could be intentional, relative to culture, or just a part of the brand strategy.
The highlighted brands below were designs that stood out to me.
Several of the Higher Ed brands in West Virginia tend to pair a serif-style typeface with a clean-contemporary icon design, which creates a strong visual and stylistic contrast. The brand solutions featured here successfully combine those two trends into a single solution that still maintains legibility, readability, movement, and style. When working with icons like these, though, you have to be very aware of the space they inhabit and how close they are relative to the letters. The Wheeling University likely saw a designer intensely considering just how much white space should be between the icon and the cap-height of the university title. Same with Bridge Valley.
What’s interesting to note about some Higher Ed logos (in particular the ones featured here) is the inclusion of the founding year of the institution. Glenville and West Virginia State both list their dates which, when combined with illustrations of campus buildings, reinforce the legacy, longevity, and tradition of the institution. As you move down through the examples, you can see the detail decreasing. Campus building designs are still one of the most popular and prevailing styles for institutional branding and are also at times the hardest to get right.
One of the more interesting trends I’ve seen in West Virginia Higher Ed logos is the use of color schemes that combine blue/red, green/blue, and red/green/blue. The solutions featured here make those color schemes work. Depending on the shade of red, blue, or green in any given element, you risk optimal contrast. Two-color combinations applied to both icon and text tend to work well, but three-color combinations applied to icon and text can present as visually busy. (See Bridge Valley image.)
Only five logos out of the set of thirty contain sans-serifs. Mountwest CTC’s typeface is different from that of the others in that it has some flourish with sharp points, diagonal crossbars (like in the letter “e”), and atypical kerning. Appalachian Bible College (seen in collection) appears to use the standard thin sans-serif. Concord U utilized a bold, evenly spaced typeface that commands attention from a distance in either inverse coloring or as the crimson color of the box it is enclosed in. Pairing serifs and hand-drawn typefaces with sans-serifs is a game of balance and intuition and Concord makes their pairing work well.
You can’t write about institutional branding in West Virginia without giving WVU some attention. Their logo aside from being a cultural mainstay in the state itself is also a well-executed design solution. The icon is in essence a modified monogram set in a clean-contemporary-minimalist style. It pairs well with the modified serif they use for the institution’s name. A few points to note about that type of solution: the kerning is very tense, there are unique and exaggerated “ears” on the letter “r”, and the capital letters have a greater width than the other letters, which commands your attention and helps reinforce the “WVU” acronym in the title. It’s a great design. The University of Charleston type is a block-justified set in small caps and likely required a great amount of time and attention to composing just perfectly, particularly between the “R” and “S” in “University.” The two-line title pairs well with the acronym which (at a cursory glance) looks like a bold version of the same typeface. Each component balances well. The star-circle demands a viewer to look at it.
Take a look at the brands below and share your thoughts with us on Twitter! #CommCentered