University of California Branding

I’ve been a designer with the University of California, Office of the President, for a little over a year now. During my initial interviews I was shown a bold and newly designed mark with accompanying branding elements. That identity system was one of the main reasons I accepted the position. It was so exciting to me that an enormous public institution would actually make the move toward a witty, fresh, charismatic and entirely unstuffy aesthetic — an aesthetic that seemed to go against all standard expectations of what public education should look like. And to have the opportunity to work on the in-house team that actually put this identity in place? Yes, please!

This identity was recently released publicly in the form of a branding video (also created in-house). Previous to this new identity, there wasn’t much unity in the material coming out of the University; brand and style guidelines were pretty much “blue and gold” and the widespread misuse of the University’s historic seal as a logo. More than a re-brand, the change has mainly come in the form of strategic thinking. Where once there was design chaos, now there is uniformity and cohesion. There’s a logo, with a typographic lockup; there are official typefaces (two of them); there is professional photography; there are Word templates for non-designers.

Ultimately, this move toward strategy and cohesion has been a vehicle for telling informative, compelling stories about the University. It’s exciting, and a big breath of fresh air to be involved. I look forward to more of it.

university of california

university of california

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university of california

University of California Onward California

university of california

university of california

university of california

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REALLY nice work! This is a great example of an incredibly well thought out strategy and a really strong message. The visuals convey the message while still being approachable to a wide variety of ages and types of people. *Tipping of the hat*

Loving the branding. But I suggest you upload the logo and social media icons as pngs on the website. I’ve only looked at it on my phone but they look all blurry an stuff. Could be my phone…

It looks really great Dave! Congratulations:)

This logo is hideous. It looks like some cheap online degree mill, rather than the University of California with 144 years of proud history.

This looks like a flushing toilet or the frustrating symbol my browser makes when it is trying to load a page. Why are we adding other schools colors like Oregon and USC? Great job with the stripes though. Choosing something other than vertical or horizontal: BRILLIANT!

Not up to the standards of 27,000 people that have signed the petition in the last few days. please fix it!

Clair |

Found design |

No. I’m sorry, just no. Not only does this video treat the current “Fiat Lux” seal, and the tradition it represents, with utter disrespect, but the logo, color palette, and the stock-like look of the photography takes a venerable institution and lowers it to the level of an online university.

I know you’ve invested a lot of time in this rebrand, and that’s admirable. But it completely misses the mark and has an undignified feel. And I have to say I’m going to sign that petition.

Goodby employee |

Found design |

Horrible!!!. Only in California could an institution of such stature design a logo that looks like a flushing toilet, complete with buttocks on the top no less. Even worse is that they pay people like you to “design” and “implement an identity” of this total crap! Money wasted. This logo makes me embarrassed to be an alum of a UC school. It certainly is not something that promotes a strong or bold identity, nor do any of the elements relate to education. I think it looks very childish and amateur. I would be better served as a children’s hospital logo, not the logo of the University of California. And we wonder why our UC system is in such a mess, they hire folks to do this nonsense. Heaven help up!

Stan Tines |

Found design |

This turns UC’s logo into a merchandising scheme to sell junk as your video clearly shows. It is natural that you will approach this task like any other thinking about building an identity for the “brand” and how to sell trinkets based on that image. However, UC has an identity, history and prestige which you are completely ignoring. The logo has to be UC’s calling card in a number of other worlds: academia, technology, the arts which this logo does not even begin to approach. This work is really amateurish.

Ricardo |

Found design |

Wow, it’s so ugly! And why does it look so cheap? Like a logo for a bubble tea cart or something. There’s nothing attractive about that logo…at all.

Karen Zachary |

Found design |


this is terrible. i don’t mean to be negative but i really feel sorry for all my friends attending UC schools if this becomes their new school logo.

the video is well executed but really…… i think you’re out of your depth in trying to re-invent a new image for UC

if anything UC should open the design up and crowd source it, its the goddamn UC system – crowd source this or invite a handful of iconic american/alumn designers to try their hand at this

It’s an ugly design, ugly blue, even uglier yellow. my first response too gross to repeat.

lcaution |

Found design |

My god what a disaster…truly a disgrace. Can you please just stop and leave well enough alone??????? Pathetic…the University of California should be ashamed.

Matt |

Found design |

Yikes. The rebrand has kicked an emotional anthill. I think the whole tradition aspect is a really touchy thing to mess around with, and people are reacting to that part of it as much as they are to the new look & feel itself. The new logo could be a masterpiece on par with the Sistine Chapel, and people would still freak out that a change was made to something they care so passionately about. I mean, the Cal football team decided to wear white helmets for one game, and the football boards exploded with rage. Cal helmets should be BLUE, damnit!

Thinking about it further, I think that drove my initial reaction as much as the new design itself. Sorry for piling on.

G.E. |

Found design |

Simply awful. It looks childish and incomplete. To quote one UC student, “It takes you a little bit to figure out what it is.” Hardly a strong brand statement. This is an ill-considered move on the University’s part. Sorry.

Sean |

Found design |

It’s kind of funny how a lot of the folks criticizing the mark are worried about it “cheapening” the “prestige” of the UC. Seriously people, GET OVER YOURSELVES!

bacobit |

Found design |

Wow, the trolls really came out on this one. I work for UC and unfortunately, it is full of entitled academics who feel it is acceptable to act like children when they feel that change is being forced upon them. As Sean said, get over yourselves.

Great job on the rebrand; those collateral pieces are BALLER, and the websites I’ve seen so far are just as awesome. Keep fighting the good fight and don’t let these fools bring you down.

Tyler |

Found design |

It’s over. The public shaming of the UC logo on the internet has already taken on a life of its own. It will only stop when the logo is discarded.
To bash the new UC logo to no end is simply a cool thing to do. The logo is the butt of all jokes.
To keep this logo is being tone-deaf.

Pure crap. Pastels? Seriously? How much did they spend on this puerile utilization of UC resources?

joan |

Found design |

The branding is entirely gorgeous. I hope they end up keeping it. Sorry to hear about the logo being pulled :(


You are a terrible designer and should be fired immediately. Take your hipster trash somewhere else.

Phan |

Found design |

I can’t even tell you how much I empathize with you, as all the outrageous(ly immature) “feedback” is being flung around regarding this. I’m not sure people realize this logo was never meant to replace the historic seal? As a creative, I know how much blood, sweat and tears are poured into any design project, much less one of this magnitude! For what little it’s worth, I want you to know that your work wasn’t received negatively by *everyone*.

@Li Tai Fang: I don’t know what your problem is, but you need to chill out. All of you haters are immature and unconstructive. I work as a graphic designer at our state’s largest university, and I know that things like this never happen without focus groups. If you didn’t have the initiative to be involved at that stage, that’s YOUR problem. And to act like you have any branding or identity to preserve is extremely pretentious and ignorant—all that you had was an inconsistent application of blue and gold, and some less-than-stellar wordmarks. And honestly, I’m not crazy myself about the logo (though I like the other branding materials well enough). But I can tell you that if you want to get something done, you’ve got to put down your pitchforks and tar and feathers.

Starving Artist |

Found design |

Honestly i like branding but logo is out of my mind ….any ways good one

Not good! This looks like a totally cheap, quick though-of mark. Personally I don’t see anything of a major university caliber here. I loved the video, but the logo is sub-par. As with the rest of the beautiful state, its people have crapified it.

Mark |

Found design |

I know it’s been said before, but the logo is… lacking… finesse… It looks like it’s loading. I’m not a fan of using gradients in logos and it would be improved just from making the ‘c’ a solid color. That said, I do enjoy the rest of the branding package! The photography is wonderful and the clean, minimal look is great. It’s nice to see a school going for a no-frills, easy-to-access information design.

Bill S Preston Esq |

Found design |

Beautiful work, Ethan. The logo represented a bold move forward and had the potential to modernize the university. I’m sad to see it go. It is easy to design a safe inoffensive logo, but that would be a disservice to an institution that is seeking to differentiate.

Gradient? Really?? Absolutely hideous.

speechless |

Found design |