Established in 1883, the University of Texas at Austin (UT) is one of the largest public universities in the United States and is the largest institution of The University of Texas System. It is comprised of 18 colleges and schools — Fine Arts, Law, Liberal Arts, Architecture, etc. — offering 170 fields of study and 100 majors to more than 50,000 students through approximately 24,000 faculty and staff. UT is home to the Texas Longhorns, the university’s athletics program that is one of the top in the nation and has one of the most recognized logos in college sports. Lastly, UT also features one of the most unflattering colors on the human skin ever formulated: the burnt orange looks good on a logo and brochures but on the t-shirts, polos, sweatshirts, hats, sweaters, scarfs, boxers, and every other piece of apparel with the UT/Longhorns logo that every person in Austin wears to work, church, the grocery store, the movies, and everywhere else, it is absolutely detrimental to their complexion no matter their rating on Hot or Not. But I digress. At the end of 2014, UT started a soft launch — now visible in their social media accounts — of a new identity designed by local firm Dyal.
The new family of signatures gives the University flexibility based on need. Colleges are typically comprised of multiple departments and offices, often with research centers and institutes. We designed a structured system to accommodate the institutional hierarchy.
The previous principal logo was set in Trajan. If it were any more unimaginative it would be a movie poster. But technically there was really nothing wrong with it and, in principle, there is nothing wrong with Trajan. It looks stately and respected. And, hey, it’s an Adobe-bundled font so, unless there is a special licensing needed for big-ass universities, it was very cheap to implement and use as the in-house type for all their materials. The new wordmark is typeset in Grilli Type’s Sectra, a beautiful hard-angled serif that is relatively obscure, giving UT a very distinct typographic voice that is rare for a university this size. The word “TEXAS” looks great and the “Th” ligature is quite sweet.
The shield graphic is derived from the shield contained within the official University seal. Retaining the Texas Lone Star at its center, the oak and olive branches have been simplified and abstracted. The number of leaves represents the eighteen colleges of the University. The rhythm and word breaks of the abstracted words on the book provide a “hidden” reference to the key phrase in the University alma mater: “The eyes of Texas are upon you, all the live long day.”
The new identity also features a new symbol, derived from the university’s seal. I’m not as crazy about it as I am about the typographic choice, mainly because there is a visual disconnect between all of its elements. The leaves are have a mono weight approach while the star and book taper in some places and the shield tapers heavily. The star is too big and has little breathing room too. It just feels a little crowded. However, as a whole and when reduced and locked up with type it looks and works quite well.
In application, things are pretty straightforward: lots of white, lots of burnt orange, and the logo used small and simple. It may seem boring but for a university this size, it’s the exact thing to do. Maybe I’m locally biased but I think this is an extremely successful redesign for an extremely large and complex institution. The simple act of changing an identity and steering such a large ship in a new, more refined and distinct identity is worth commending. I will still not wear any UT-colored merch, no matter how pretty the type is.
Thanks to Alex Call for the tip.