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5 Universities Who Understand How to Brand

In our “What is a Brand?” series, we stress the differences between logos, brand identity, and talked about how each plays a role in the overall brand. In this post, we’ve picked five universities whose brand identity elements and branding strategy we love—plus, some tips to help your university stand out.

5. UC Berkeley

Why it’s awesome
We can’t stress a solid brand guideline enough—one thing we really like about UC Berkeley is their commitment to their brand guideline. In particular, we applaud their photography style. They strive to make sure their photography remains consistent with a light, airy, “Cali” feel while highlighting campus life. Their #InThisGen campaign does a great job speaking to the upcoming generation of students, with a photography style that resonates with what the future holds for aspiring UC Berkeley graduates.

Check out their work here.

Our tip
Pay attention to your university’s photography style. University photography has a way of looking like stock photos—how can you spice things up? UC Berkeley has guidelines for the topical, historical, and cultural photos they share across their communications, which is a pretty good idea for any college or university, but what’s more, they let their students speak for them with their #InThisGen campaign. Giving current and potential students a chance to share their experiences while promoting the authenticity of their university.

4. University of Oregon

Why it’s awesome
Why do we love the University of Oregon? VIDEO. From their conversational language, to their unique compilation of video/photo in their If campaign, we LOVE how they’ve stepped outside the box when it comes to this platform and promoting their school.

Check out their stuff:

Our tip
Quality video content
. If you haven’t been using it, you’ve been missing out. What’s more, your Gen Z target market will notice if you’re missing it too. We love University of Oregon’s promo video because it’s not like every other “cookie-cutter” university video that highlights the “beauty of the university”—rather they highlight their students. Take note of this when you develop your own video content; make sure you’re telling a story, think about the attention span of your audience, (don’t forget a CTA!) and know how to best cut and tailor video on your channels of distribution.


3. Liberty University

Why it’s awesome
There’s no question about it, social media is killing it right now. And universities need it if they’re going to stay afloat. Liberty University in particular knows how to use Instagram to its full potential. Its account highlights the stories behind the people on campus—and we’re not talking about the staged college-students-laughing-on-the-quad picture either. They’re real students. They understand their audience on Instagram and know how to interact. From students, to events, to guest speakers, to dogs (they have a lot of dog pictures), they highlight all areas of campus life in an organized way that has them earning their 74k following and growing.

Check out their work: @libertyuniversity.

Our tip
Know your audience, know your platform
. Liberty University knows where their students live, and they use a solid mix of quality videos and photos to engage them. They’ve got the Instagram lingo down and they emphasize school spirit as well as the college experience. Their Instagram Takeovers are great examples of what future students want to see before they commit to a school and their #libertyuniversity gives students a chance to be featured—again, understanding how to best interact with and delight their core audience.


2. West Virginia University (WVU)

Why it’s awesome
So, we might be a bit bias towards this one…but hear us out. A part of the Big 12 Conference, WVU has long been known for their sports. And they’ve certainly capitalized on this when it comes to their brand. Especially with their logo, which has its roots in the 1980 WVU football team, a turning point for the Mountaineer team and for WVU itself.

WV-logo-(blue)If we could describe the “Flying WV” in a word, it would be iconic. In our logo blog, we talked about how the logo is your organization’s visual first impression—and what an impression the WVU logo has made; not just for the Mountaineer team, or even the university, but on the entire state. Born on a sheet of wax paper by graphic designer and illustrator John Boyd Martin, the mountain inspired design is what every designer hopes to achieve in a logo. Sharp placement, an honest, simplistic, look—plus, the logo captures the overall essence of WVU: their rugged determination and strength.

Our tip
It’s possible your college or university may have both an academic university logo and an athletic university logo. While this isn’t a bad idea, there’s been a growing trend with universities using the same logo for both. We have to say, we’re in favor of this idea for numerous reasons. One strong logo under a university builds immediate recognition, it’s easier to place one logo across all communications, it makes for a more cohesive brand identity system, and it’s just less confusing in the long run. But, a secondary logo for an athletic program can differentiate the message you’re trying to convey if it’s different from the central messaging of your academia programs.

For more tips on how to use a logo properly, check out our infographic.


1. University of Virginia (UVA)

Why it’s awesome
UVA does what every great organization hopes to achieve; make an identity system that’s cohesive, integrated, and tells a story. They have unique, yet consistent logos, marks, and other graphics that communicate their identity, a color palette that remains consistent across all of their communications, and strong primary and secondary fonts that just plain work. But most importantly, their identity elements stick to the brand guidelines and weave together the entire UVA story. No matter what niche, field, or school you might be looking at—you just know it’s UVA.

Our tip
UVA is consistent on every platform, whether it be print, digital, etc. What’s more each piece of content they create works within the greater UVA brand—now that’s branding at its best. What did they do to become successful? They found their university narrative. And that’s our tip to you. Finding those core ideas your brand will be based on will take you into the next steps of creating quality content materials. Another tip, your content materials MUST be accessible to communicators across your university. If it’s not accessible to everyone, your identity elements won’t be unified. But it has to start with your story. Seeing UVA’s materials working together, you know that their’s is a school that celebrates the past, while leading the way into the future.

Need help with brand identity, digital strategy, or hitting your marketing goals? We’re happy to help. Connect with us at [email protected].