Penn State Updates Iconic Shield Logo
Penn State’s familiar shield logo, found on campus podiums and thousands of Penn State dad t-shirts, is getting a facelift.
Lawrence Lokman, the vice president for strategic communications, told the Board of Trustees outreach, development, and community relations committee in May that the shield logo (seen below) would be brought into the 21st century. “It doesn’t translate well digitally,” he said.
The current Penn State academic visual identity, centered around the shield emblem, was introduced in the late 1980s. As a result, different colleges, campuses, and alumni groups have created different variations of the logo leaving an overall brand architecture that lacked clarity.
Over the past five months a team has been working to completely reinvent the iconic, but dated shield.
Here’s a first look at the new shield:
The ultimate goal was to leverage the visual qualities of the Nittany Lion, shield, and Penn State name to create a “refreshed brand identity.” The Identity Advisory Council looked at competitive bids from five different firms and eventually contracted Jerry Kuyper Partners for the project. The same firm responsible for refreshing brands like AT&T, Cigna, Cisco, and the World Wildlife Fund.
More than 300 members of various faculty, staff and administrative groups were engaged during the process, which was guided by the council comprised of representatives from Smeal College of Business, Penn State Health, Outreach, Alumni Association, and Penn State Altoona.
There were seven core characteristics the council sought to incorporate in the brand revival: strong, distinct, memorable, enduring, visually appealing, meaningful, and legally available. In looking at the old shield logo the council decided to keep the name, the shield, and the Nittany Lion in the revival but looked at alternatives for the size and position of lion within the shield, the shape of shield, and the font.
“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,” Lokman said.
The council looked at hundreds of different possibilities ranging from the fonts, to the shield shape, and the placement and color of the lion. The final product features a bold and distinctive custom serif typeface, a rounded shield, and the lion looking up and out toward the nameplate.
“I am excited to see us moving forward with an updated visual identity that connects our rich tradition with a bright future,” Penn State President Eric Barron said. “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.”
It will be a couple of years before the old shield logo is completely phased out. Things like fixed signage will take time to introduce, while making the switch to the new logo online won’t take long. Colleges and campuses will cycle-in new brochures and materials instead of throwing away what they have now.
The project cost $128,000 to contract the design firm, make the final brand architecture, and create files for an online tool kit that will help transition in the new logo. Some of the bids for the project would have cost upwards of $500,000, but in this case the most qualified firm also had the most conservative budget.
“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,” Lokman said. “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.”
Lokman is no stranger to undertaking projects like this. He previously spearheaded brand identity revivals at UCLA and Stanford. When Lokman first arrived in State College, he looked at Penn State’s brand and saw some room for improvement. The merger of the Hershey Medical Center and PinnacleHealth System to create Penn State Health was the original catalyst for the project.
The new shield does not affect the university crest or the Intercollegiate Athletics logo. And while it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, Penn State’s brand people have certainly done worse.
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About the Author
Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, and Anthony Cassar all finished the NCAA Championships atop the podium for Penn State wrestling.
“Whatever I can do to help Penn State and give back, that’s the mission.”
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