USM Launches New Logo Emphasizing Innovation and Ties to State


USM Logo


It has been more than a decade since the University System of Maryland (USM) redesigned its logo. In that time, logo design standards have changed considerably-and so has the system. USM has become increasingly focused on innovation, economic development, and student success, but its graphic identity has not kept pace.

That is, until now. Today, USM unveiled a new logo specifically designed to bring its visual identity up-to-date and in line with its strategic priorities.

"USM today is different from the USM 10 years ago" says Anne Moultrie, USM's vice chancellor for communications. "We have made significant progress in building our reputation for excellence and innovation. We have become a national model in several areas, including academic transformation, effectiveness and efficiency, and economic and workplace development. Our logo should reflect this progress and visually identify USM as the dynamic, forward-looking organization that it is today."

USM also needed a more functional logo. For example, the words and icon used in USM's previous logo were not designed to be separated from one another; therefore, it had only one usable orientation and did not scale well. These limitations made it difficult to apply it in a variety of contemporary contexts, such as social media.

Through a competitive bid process, the USM Office of Communications in May 2016 contracted with Novak Birch (NB), a Baltimore-based integrated marketing firm, to redesign USM's logo. Moultrie asked Jennifer Rose, public relations specialist in the office, to manage the day-to-day work on the project.

To assist with the redesign, the Office of Communications formed an in-house committee, led by Rose, and reached out to other members of the system's internal community (i.e. members of the Board of Regents, students, faculty, and staff) and external stakeholders (i.e. members of the Maryland legislature and business community) for feedback to help guide the redesign process.

Two key themes emerged from these exchanges. Stakeholders strongly valued the aesthetic ties to the Maryland flag, indicating that those ties helped to visually communicate the relationship between USM and the state. And they wanted to see a design that better represented USM's focus on innovation.

NB developed several initial designs based on this feedback. Members of the internal and external audiences honed in one featuring a stained glass shield and colors built off the palette used in the Maryland flag.

"The shield echoed the shield shape used in the previous USM logo, which we felt was important in achieving a sense of continuity between old and new," Rose says. "We also felt the shield conveyed an important sense of tradition. And we knew from our stakeholders that the use of ‘Maryland colors' (red, gold, white, and black) would help cement the visual tie between USM and the state and enable us to leverage the strong sense of state pride that exists here in Maryland."

 In subsequent rounds of revisions, NB added a club shape to the design, borrowing yet another element from the Maryland flag. NB also modified its original design to incorporate a serif font, which viewed as both classic and contemporary. Additionally, NB removed the border around the shield, giving the shield a more open feel to help convey USM's forward-looking, "unbounded" approach to fulfilling its mission of education, research, and service.

The logo redesign follows on the heels of the Offices of Communications and Technology's work to redesign the system office website, which was launched last year. Communications also is working with NB on a new graphic identity for USM's printed materials.

 "The new logo is a functional, forward-looking graphic that represents what USM is and what its strategic priorities are today," says Moultrie. It makes clear that we are deeply connected to the state of Maryland, and that we are a system on the move."

For more information on USM's new logo, contact Jennifer Rose.

Contact: Jennifer Rose
Phone: 301.445.2756