University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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History of the Illinois Visual Identity

In August 1995, Sangamon State University became part of the University of Illinois, and the campus was renamed the University of Illinois at Springfield.

In the spring of 1996, the Board of Trustees adopted the university seal for use by the University of Illinois System Administration. The seal previously had been used as the Urbana-Champaign campus logo. The Chicago campus joined the University of Illinois system in 1913 and had developed its own visual identity.

According to official records in the Office of the Chancellor's Central Files, in September of 1996, President James Stukel directed all three campus public affairs officers to perform a census of printed publications on the Urbana, Springfield, and Chicago campuses. After reviewing the publications, President Stukel directed the three public affairs officers to present a more coherent public image, with each campus managing its own brand and distinct visual identity.

In response to input from from faculty and staff, who were concerned that stationery and other printed products had no mark, as the university Seal had been removed from business cards, letterhead, etc., Chancellor Michael Aiken directed Public Affairs to create a committee to explore a new visual identity for the campus.

The Committee consisted of faculty from the the School of Art+Design, College of Fine and Applied Arts, and from the Advertising Department of the College of Communications, and communications professionals from ACES, Admissions and Records, the Alumni Association, Continuing Education, Development, Engineering, LAS and Veterinary Medicine.

The Committee recommended that the new identity system:

  • emphasize "Illinois"
  • employ orange and blue
  • emphasize the founding date of 1867

Three designers from Public Affairs' Office of Publications were charged with the creation of the new visual identity, including a new campus logo.

Design Background for the Development of the I Mark and the Campus Logos

At first glance, logos appear to require little time and effort to create. This is an illusion.

Well-designed, memorable logos are created through a complex process involving hours of research, design, feedback, redesign and refinement, administrative approval, and incorporation and implementation into a larger identity system.


The condensation of the story of the University of Illinois into the shorthand of visual symbols has a rich history. The campus logos were created in 1997 after a deep examination of that history. Here are some of the visuals that influenced the design themes that evolved into the current iteration of the campus logos.

Take a closer look.