• Transform magazine
  • October 21, 2017

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Going for the orange in Oregon State rebrand

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The mighty Beavers of Oregon State University are now rather long in the tooth, having fought it out with Pac-12 competition since helping found the conference in 1915. Now, the team, and the university, are putting a new face forward on both the beaver itself and the university as a whole.

The new identity, which debuted last month, was carried out in partnership with Pentagram. The design firm looked back to the origins of the OSU crest and insignia, finding that it was taken from Oregon’s state crest. In setting the university apart, Pentagram focused on the four areas of expertise for which OSU receives grants – land, sea, sun and space.

Thus the new crest features each of those elements as well as the ever-present beaver. The modern design doesn’t depart too much from the traditional university crest approach many US universities favour, but it does allow for a more consistent, consolidated brand. The university’s brand guidelines website say the new brand is designed to improve brand awareness, ensure consistency and allow for future growth.

The wordmark is a semi-serif typeface in lockup with the beaver-adorned crest on a white, orange or grey background. Individual departments or schools can adapt the logo by adding their individual name under the OSU wordmark.

But, as Pentagram states, “One of the main objectives of the initiative was to design an institutional identity that plays nicely with the athletic logo.” Integrating the beaver into the academic crest was only one step toward achieving that goal. One of the challenges was that in-state rival the University of Oregon prominently uses an ‘O’ across its athletics branding. Similarly, Ohio State and Oklahoma State lay stronger claim to the ‘OSU’ indicator. Pentagram instead put ‘Oregon State Athletics’ at the centre of the athletics brand.

The fighting beaver, which was revamped in 2013 by Nike, is a fiercer companion to the more sedate academic one. “Beavers are known to be very communal animals,” Pentagram partner DJ Stout said at the launch, “So I’m confident these two beavers can play nicely together in the same pond.” The orange accents and similar typeface create a stronger association than the university had in the past.

As far as university rebrands go, OSU’s is comprehensive, logical and modern. With the pride held by the university’s community in its athletics, an alignment of the overall brand to the athletics identity may prove to be a winning move.