May 10, 2004

Emory ‘look’ recognizable
through identity program       

By Michael Terrazas

For much of its history, Emory has clung proudly to its decentralized nature. Graphically speaking, however, that tradition often resulted in barely constrained chaos—a mish-mash of logos and wordmarks, letterheads and signage, joined under a common umbrella in name only.

But five years ago the University launched a graphic identity program that sought to pull together under a single set of graphic standards as much of the Emory enterprise as possible, and the results are now apparent: The Emory wordmark—consisting of the torch-and-trumpet shield supporting the word “Emory” colored in Pantone 280 blue—is instantly recognizable. It is, for all intents and purposes, Emory’s logo.

The University’s success in translating graphic form into graphic identity has
earned the program recognition in a major industry trade journal, American Corporate Identity, which in October will hail Emory’s program as one of the best in the country. It may seem as though Emory’s graphic identity has arrived, but for those charged with monitoring and implementing the program, it is a constant struggle.

“This was a need I saw from the very beginning when I came to Emory; our graphics were all over the place,” said Curt Carlson, vice president for public affairs, who oversees the identity program. “In the main, I’m very happy with the way it’s rolled out. I knew it would be a matter of years, and really, an identity program like this never ends. As long as the University keeps growing and changing, as long as new people come on board, there always will be applications that need attention.”

The wordmark is only one aspect of the program. Another is the dictum that the presidential seal (which before the identity program was used by many departments across campus) is now used only in official communications from the Office of the President.

Detailed in a website (, the identity program provides a set of typefaces, colors, graphic elements and combinations of all elements that allow for individual units (schools, centers, etc.) to establish a unique “look” while still relating graphically to the overall University identity.

All forms of graphic communication—from signage to business cards, letterhead to T-shirts—are expected to conform to these guidelines.

Behind all this effort is the goal of advancing the Emory “brand” in the world, and capitalizing on recognition of Emory as a whole to promote each individual unit; for example, Goizueta Business School as an entity is recognizable to a certain worldwide audience, but Goizueta Business School of Emory University is recognizable to a much larger audience, and so on.

For all its strictures, the identity program has not been written into University policy; participation is strongly encouraged but ultimately voluntarily. Though virtually all units of the University have come on board, there are still some holdouts, and Carlson said that is perfectly understandable.

“When you start tampering with people’s letterhead or business cards or logo, it’s a very personal thing, but it’s also very important,” he said. “The reason is precisely because we do have so many units and so many audiences, if we can get a handle on our graphics, we may be decentralized, but at least we give the impression that we’re one institution.”

“There’s a fair amount of diplomacy involved,” said David McClurkin, assistant director for University Publications, who works with campus units to implement the identity program in their printed materials. “Probably the trickiest thing is convincing people they can’t create a new logo for their department. They should use an Emory identifier and derive strength from the University’s increasingly recognizable graphic system.”

Degree-granting institutions and major centers are permitted to have their own logo, which is exactly what some schools have done; Oxford College, for example, has designed its own distinct shield that strongly reflects the University wordmark. The identity program also allows for exceptions for entities with long-established graphic trademarks; the logo for the Woodruff Health Sciences Center is one such exception.

Finally, Carlson said, for certain entities, it is advantageous not to link themselves as intimately to Emory as do others. He cited the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, and another example is the Schwartz Center; both units have designed shields that are unique yet still reminiscent of the Emory identity.

Responsible for creating those shields and other elements of the program is the creative team of Malcolm Grear Design (based in Providence, R.I.) and Knapp Inc.
of Atlanta. Grear’s firm, which provides a range of graphic design services, will be the named recipient of the award from American Corporate Identity, but the honor is directed toward the company’s work with Emory.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done with Emory; when you design an identity, you want something that’s memorable, unique and as timeless as possible,” Grear said. “Emory’s not so different from a corporation—you have to take advantage of every piece of promotion that comes out.”