LMU began the visual identity redesign process in early 2018, engaging two design firms in an initial creative discovery process. Goals and objectives were clearly defined:
- Visual Integrity — We sought a logo system that is more visually diverse than our previous graphic identity, developed in 2003, a system that renders more clearly on the popular mediums we use most to communicate today. The 2003 identity was developed in a time of fax machines and photocopiers. Today, when there is a high-powered computer in every pocket, we need a visual identity that functions in digital icons, social media tiles and favicons.
- Brand Architecture — LMU requires total adoption of its new identity system, so it had to scale to the diverse needs of the entire community. Every school, college, department, program, center and affinity group can lock into it.
- Sub-brand Integration — Loyola Law School and LMU Athletics are two of our strongest sub-brands and areas where the university stands to experience sharp reputational growth most quickly. However, in the 2003 identity system, neither was consistent with the university brand. The new identity system addresses that gap and visually folds both organizations into one master brand, making it clear we are all Loyola Marymount University.
- Refreshed Color and Typography Palettes — Our color and type palettes were worn and dated, and neither functioned well in digital environments. A key deliverable of the identity initiative was to modernize both.
- An Ownable Identity — LMU needs a visual identity that is clearly differentiating in a crowded higher education landscape. Nearly 5,000 colleges and universities in the U.S. are vying for awareness and name recognition from the same audiences. We are all competing for top academic reputations, to attract the best students and the most-talented faculty. Our visual identity has to do a better job of grabbing immediate attention and communicating what we stand for as a university, and what sets us apart from our competitors.
After several months of creative discovery, LMU hired Pentagram Austin to further develop and execute LMU’s visual identity initiative. Pentagram is one of the world’s leading identity design firms, with high-profile clients in higher education and beyond. For five decades, Pentagram has worked with top organizations to address and solve branding challenges, from Harvard and Yale to Apple and the New York Times. Pentagram’s creative collaborations with LMU began in 2009 with LMU Magazine and continued with other key initiatives and campaigns such as LMYOU.
Development of identity directions continued through the summer of 2018, with months of work spent refining logo ideas, color palettes and typographic solutions. Under the guidance of university leadership, a direction was chosen that features four coordinated marks, an updated color palette, and refreshed typefaces.
During the Fall 2018 semester, LMU Marketing and Communications brought the identity to the university community, making presentations to all primary stakeholders and constituencies including academic, religious, staff, student and alumni leaders; faculty chairs; coaches; boards and councils; and the community of faculty, staff, students and alumni. Feedback was collected from the community for nearly four months.
At the culmination of this consultation, the identity system was scrutinized for major graphic oversights and common concerns. The university’s input directly informed a set of refinements that were presented to the LMU Cabinet, which unanimously voted to adopt the visual identity system, a decision that was then ratified and supported by the university Board of Trustees on December 3, 2018.
The new visual identity system is the graphic distillation of the comprehensive university brand initiative, which began in 2017 with the largest market research and perceptions study in university history and the first-ever LMU brand platform. Read more about the LMU brand initiative.
“Mark” is just another name for “logo”, and in LMU’s new identity, there are four that visually integrate to form a complete system: a redrawn university seal; a shield that extracts from the seal as a stand-alone mark; a lion “spirit mark” that extracts from the seal and shield graphics; and a redeveloped LMU “arch” logo for Athletics.
The University Seal: Our Ceremonial Mark
University seals are common marks of the academic academy, associated with institutions of higher learning for centuries. For the past two decades, seal usage has declined dramatically as ubiquitous digital devices favor visual marks that communicate clearly when miniaturized. To address this challenge, we breathed new life into our university’s seal by contemporizing its design while honoring its core symbology. This simplified approach reflects best practices and similar approaches in university seal design and evolution from the world’s most prestigious universities.
The Society of Jesus is represented by the IHS mark, which stands for the first three letters of Jesus’ name in Greek. The pierced heart signifies the suffering of Mary, Mother of Jesus, a graphic that represents the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary. The angel icon is retained from the previous seal to represent Los Angeles, the City of Angels. The new spirit mark icon is inspired by an art deco array reminiscent of the 500 year-old Jesuit seal and sunny Southern California.
The ceremonial mark will be reserved for ceremonial purposes only, such as degrees, regalia, emblems, and high-level university communications.
The Shield: Our Primary Logo
The university logo is the most prominent mark in the visual identity system. The shield is extracted from the ceremonial mark — the university seal. Unlike the previous LMU logo, the new logo is iconographic and represents a sophisticated system of synthesized logo signatures (graphic marks locked up with wordmarks). The logo bridges the ceremonial mark and the spirit mark, achieving visual integration.
The new logo conveys core institutional and academic values, contemporized and simplified so that it functions across digital platforms and devices. Symbology from our founding orders and our spirit mark bring 500 years of history into a contemporary graphic that will be featured on signage, the university business package (stationery, email signatures, etc.), online, and with advertising and publications.
The Lion: Our Spirit Mark
The most innovative aspect of the proposed identity system, the spirit mark was inspired by the 500-year-old Jesuit seal. The art deco sunburst arrayed around the perimeter of the Jesuit seal was originally painted as a fresco in St. Ignatius’ rooms in Rome. In the LMU spirit mark, it is simplified and fashioned it into the lion’s mane to infuse the Ignatian tradition into the university mascot.
Spirit marks are often used by sports fans, students, and alumni/student organizations to inspire pride and loyalty in non-academic contexts. We designed the spirit mark as a fully integrated visual element in the new identity. It is an ownable and differentiating icon that is totally unique to LMU.
The LMU Arch: Our Primary Athletics Logo
A new Athletics mark has been redrawn from the previous, Gothic-inspired, typographic logo developed in 1999. It has been simplified and contemporized for clarity and optimization on digital devices. Strengthened by a more vibrant color palette, the new Athletics logo more vividly and immediately conveys the university brand, lowering the barrier to name recognition for strengthened Athletics reputational awareness.
The typographical basis of the proposed Athletics logo is a block, slab serif typeface altered on a curve, retaining the equity in the previous Athletics logo’s iconic shape. The Athletics identity features its own brand architecture that all programs lock into. The mark is visually integrated with the rest of the LMU brand and will be featured on uniforms, in playing arenas, signage, the Athletics business package and fan apparel.
The Color Palette
In the course of developing the LMU identity, hundreds of hours were devoted to color exploration. That’s a lot of time spent looking at red and blue.
LMU’s previous crimson-and-navy color strategy lacked on several fronts. First and foremost, the university did not use it consistently. Athletics and Loyola Law School used different color palettes, and neither matched the university’s. This lack of standardization was hindering our ability to clearly communicate LMU’s brand position with the use of color, a very powerful visual tool.
None of the the former color palettes were visually strategic. The color values of dark crimson and navy blue were too close to each other to be functionally used together. On screens, the dominant means of today’s communication, both colors appeared muddy and lackluster.
The new LMU color palette takes us back to the original color affinities of our founding traditions. Specifically, the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary tradition identifies with a lighter blue than the navy of our previous palette.
The combination of both hues presents a vivid, compatible color values that directly harken LMU’s founding traditions — crimson for the Jesuits and light blue for the RSHM. Gray values also remain LMU highlight colors.
The new color palette is distinctive. The brightened and more vivid values are screen and mobile adaptive. They can even be seen clearly on a black background.
Our new typography evolves a university type strategy that lacked consistency and sophistication. Two typefaces — the sans serif Metric and serif Lyon — combine to address all visual communication needs, from the identity system itself to the vast array of publications and communications the university produces.
Metric is our core identity font. It is a sans serif typeface with simple and classic glyphs that present with clarity and boldness. The Metric primary typeface will be used with our logo, for headlines, for signage, and throughout our system.
Lyon, our secondary font family, is a serif typeface that harmoniously complements Metric with a sense of history that presents strength and character. Our secondary typeface will be used for body copy on letterhead and other printed communications.
Both typefaces are robust in styles and weights, providing the foundation of a comprehensive type style palette. Used in combination, Metric and Lyon serve our brand’s most complex typographic needs, from social media icons to LMU Magazine.
In summary, the new LMU identity system is a visual evolution of our recently-articulated brand aspirations. It is a modernized response to what two years of in-depth brand research and development has told us we want the world to come into contact with and remember about us.
Each one of us has an important role to play in bringing the LMU brand to life. It will take a fully unified LMU to deploy an effective identity for LMU that will help us achieve reputational aspirations outlined in our brand positioning statement. All university sub brands will fold into the comprehensive brand architecture, and every school, college, program, center, functional unit and initiative will lock into it. The architecture will help us break through a crowded higher education landscape and send a strong, powerful, lasting message that lifts the entire university.