Higher Ed Branding in The Equality State

What at first felt like a shocking lack of higher education institutions in Wyoming soon settled into a clear acceptance given the population characteristics and overall rural way of life in Wyoming. A cursory glance at Wyoming-based institutions will identify that there is only one university amongst a group of colleges. Despite the lack of institution brands to collect, there are some common trends amongst them.

Some notable takeaways:

  • Dominant use of the color red.
  • Most brands are set in serif-style typography.
  • Frequent mountain motifs.
  • Animal motifs.

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

The gallery of 9 logos is displayed at the bottom of the page. Let me know what you think on Twitter or LinkedIn!

Red

Red and blue are the most used colors in each of these brands. These two color choices make sense given that the state flag of Wyoming is primarily red and blue. A rectangular red frame surrounds an inner fill of dark blue with a white buffalo in the center. When brands such as higher education institutions align themselves with the representative colors of their city, county, or state, the barrier for entry is lower and acceptance is quicker. Red is already a part of the visual language in Wyoming. The logos to left feature various shades of red, ranging from bright to dark shades. The Western Wyoming Community College logo uses a darker red that is too close in shade to the black outlines of the text, which hurts readability. 

Mountains

Abstraction is not a common choice in Wyoming college brands. The closest abstraction is used is in the mountain motifs. The Sheridan College logo and the Wyoming Catholic College logo both use literal interpretations of mountains. The added detail makes for a more complex visual to decode and interpret versus the cleaner more abstract lines of Northwest College and Gilette College. Scalability is also an issue with highly detailed mountains, as the smaller the image gets the harder the detail is to see. When reviewing these, it makes one wonder if people are choosing one mountain over another when you look at the logos at face value. Which mountain is more appealing?

Animals

Animal logos are pretty common, regardless of industry. There is a lot of symbolism and nuance in interpretation to make practically any animal logo yield some sense of pride, determination, action, justice, etc. Just take a look at municipal logos, municipal government seals, high schools, and sports teams – animals are everywhere! The logos featured here feature horses and eagles, symbols of pride, determination, speed, success – really whatever you want to attribute to them. The trouble with animal logos is in how they are rendered. For example, the University of Wyoming logo is detailed but flat. It’s a digital illustration. The Laramie County Community College is also a digital illustration, flat, solid, and the linework is a little less detailed than the former logo. Eastern Wyoming is almost nearly a blend of both with finely detailed line work but moderate areas of flat, solid color. It’s interesting to see both Laramie and Eastern Wyoming set in ovals, which helps centralize the designs and gives them focus but also makes them slightly busier which also takes away focus.