An Updated Look for the University

From the looks of @Pitt's e-newsletter and website, you may be noticing that a new look is rolling out for the University of Pittsburgh.

The Office of University Communications recently began implementing a new color palette and logo, known as the shield, across campuses late this summer. The fresh and modern updates are based on input from more than 4,000 surveyed students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and fans and the work of a University committee on marks and colors.

The survey was designed to gather community input into how the University’s marks and colors can reflect the innovation, leadership and experiential pioneering that defines Pitt.

“The role of branding is to capture the key associations, defining characteristics and meanings that distinguish a branded entity, such as the University of Pittsburgh, from other entities, such as other universities or institutions,” said branding expert Vanitha Swaminathan, Thomas Marshall Professor of Marketing in the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business. “In embarking on a branding campaign, the University of Pittsburgh seeks to define its identity and strengthen its appeal to its various stakeholders ranging from employees, students, to alumni, donors and the community at large.”

Additionally, the updates to the marks and colors addressed key aspects of University’s visual identity that were problematic in digital design, a focus area of the marks and colors committee.

A fresh, accessible color palette

Survey results revealed that the color palette in use by Pitt Athletics is strongly associated with innovation, leadership and academic momentum, key traits of the University brand. “While the Pitt Athletics palette is very focused on royal blue and Pitt gold, the University’s primary palette uses those colors, but also incorporates navy and a more tonal gold,” said Kate Ledger, assistant vice chancellor for marketing. Secondary and accent palettes include neutral hues and impact color to supplement the primary palette and provide balance.

One example of how the color palette updates reflect consideration of ADA standards for accessible design is in the shift of gold hues. “Vegas gold, which was adopted by Pitt in the '90s, can sometimes have contrast issues, which creates legibility concerns," said Chris Jones, senior interactive art director.

Simplified, unified marks

The other obstacle the refreshing of marks and colors addressed is how the University’s official seal is being used as a primary logo in many applications, including across digital mediums like websites. Reducing the University seal artwork for use on digital applications like a website creates a logo that is hard to read. “Over the years, we've tried modifying the seal to make it work effectively in all applications, with little success. The new mark speaks to our past and moves us forward with a unified brand identity that will translate well across platforms," said Gary Cravener, creative director.

Read more about the meanings behind the different elements of the shield.

After researching peer university logo systems, the Office of University Communications, with the guidance of the committee, explored using the shield that appears within the University seal. This concept — a logo that can be reduced for use digitally but still reflects key aspects of the University seal — was tested in focus groups with faculty, staff, students and alumni and met with enthusiasm.

“One of the students’ favorite aspects of the new shield was increasing the visibility of the open door in the castle at the top of the shield,” said Ledger. “The open door reminded the students of the welcoming experience they have at Pitt.”

For assistance in placing the new logo on University promotional materials, please complete the Marketing Intake Form.

Faculty and staff who wish to sign up for an in-depth briefing about our brand may use the intake form by typing “BRAND BRIEFING” in the project title box.

The formal University seal is not going away — it is reserved for diplomas, chancellor’s materials and other high-end academic settings. It has, though, been refreshed in Pitt Royal and University Gold to align with the new color palette.

Also, the use of Pitt in Jansen font — the familiar font the University has been using for its signature — remains appropriate for units who are looking for an informal way to highlight their names, such as Pitt Research or Pitt Business.

Script Pitt continues to be the spirit mark for the University and is approved for non-academic use. Athletics reviews the application of Script Pitt, which is always required to appear in Pitt Royal and University Gold, as well as the use of the shield or seal in merchandise. (Pitt Athletics’ brand identity manual provides guidance on how to use the color palette and script appropriately.)