Penn State mark to receive refresh for stronger, more contemporary look

Refresh does not impact Intercollegiate Athletics mark or University seal

The original Penn State mark, left, was developed in the 1980s, long before the digital era. The refreshed mark, right, is designed to maintain the original mark's heritage while being more friendly in Web, social media and video applications. Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State is refreshing its academic visual identity, which was created in the late 1980s and is often referred to as the University mark. Though it has served the University well, the original mark was developed in the pre-digital era and its poor reproduction in Web, social media and video environments has diminished its use and led to a proliferation of inconsistent designs to represent the Penn State academy.

The updated mark focuses on the head and face of the Nittany Lion Shrine in a more contemporary and engaging way, continuing its heritage and providing the same sense of stature as the sculpture. A slight curve at the top of the shield makes it more distinctive, while reflecting the shape of the lion. Additionally, the lion is now positioned to look forward and connect with the Penn State name. Additional background information can be found at:

“I am excited to see us moving forward with an updated visual identity that connects our rich tradition with a bright future,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “The 1980s version of the mark incorporated important elements of who we are as a University, but had presented usage challenges for some time. The updated version is a strong representation of Penn Staters’ excellence, passion and innovation.”

“The refreshed version provides an opportunity to increase the visibility of Penn State while evolving the tradition of the Lion Shrine that Penn Staters hold dear,” said Lawrence Lokman, Penn State’s vice president for strategic communications. “We have a strong and vibrant university, and a bold and contemporary visual identity system is an investment that will support the University’s reputational, recruitment and resource development efforts.”

Identity helps introduce Penn State Health

The refresh comes in time to launch the new Penn State Health brand, which represents the University’s expanding health and medicine enterprise throughout Central Pennsylvania and beyond.

“The updated mark comes at a critical time as we establish and expand the identity of Penn State Health across Pennsylvania,” said Dr. A. Craig Hillemeier, dean of Penn State College of Medicine, CEO of Penn State Health, and Penn State’s senior vice president for health affairs. “As we continue to develop our new health enterprise, we recognize the need for a consistent, clear identity that will accommodate the addition of new health system members while leveraging the inherent strengths of the Penn State brand. For this reason, Penn State Health was an active partner in selecting the updated design.”

Cost-sensitive implementation approach supports University marketing needs

“Penn State was ahead of its time in introducing the academic shield and achieving University-wide use earlier than many other top public research universities,” said Lokman. “However, with the original mark, designers frequently spent added time trying to adapt it for uses that were not foreseen at the time of its development nearly three decades ago, causing increased costs and frustrations for the University marketing community, as well as firms that produce merchandise carrying the University’s mark.”

To provide a consistent, up-to-date and time- and cost-effective approach, the academic identity will be phased in over time across the University. Units will be afforded time to plan and budget for changes to signage, letterhead and other areas, with digital updates the early priority. Units will not be asked to dispose of existing materials. The only expected financial resource need will be for exterior signage, since units will be asked to integrate the updated identity as they replenish supplies that use the mark. The change will be most immediately evident in high-profile venues such as on the Penn State homepage, news and social media platforms, campus websites and in television spots.

The refreshed identity replicates well in digital and print environments and will be accompanied by easy-to-use file formats and a brand architecture system that will achieve visual consistency across the University. Its simplicity and ease-of-use will promote consistency, and reduce time and implementation costs for designers. An online manual and toolkit will be available in the coming months to ease the transition for the University community.

More than 300 members of various faculty, staff and administrative groups were engaged during the process, which was guided by an Identity Advisory Council comprised of representatives from Smeal College of Business, Penn State Health, Outreach, Alumni Association and Penn State Altoona. These, as well as World Campus and the College of Communications, are expected to be among the earliest adopters of the updated mark.

The design phase set out to retain the University name, Nittany Lion Shrine and shield while developing a mark that is meaningful, memorable, distinct, enduring and visually appealing. The line attached to the old version of the mark, often cumbersome and difficult to use, has been eliminated. The 1855 date, which frequently was rendered illegible in digital and video spaces, and in smaller type, also has been removed, Lokman said, noting the University seal features the founding year.

Jerry Kuyper Partners of Westport, Connecticut, was engaged to update the design. Kuyper has extensive experience in the field, having worked on major identity programs for the World Wildlife Fund, Cisco, Cigna, PennMedicine, AT&T and many other iconic brands.

Last Updated August 07, 2015