My beloved Alma Mater the University of Sheffield, which will be spared no special treatment.

A Totally Objective Ranking of Every UK University Logo

Robin Wilde
49 min readDec 27, 2021

Alright, time for the difficult third album. After early experiments with Canadian political parties and a mid-grade hit with the Council logos, I needed a follow-up set of design work to look through, without taking on a mammoth task (there are 22,000 US local authorities, tragically) or setting arbitrary limits on what I included.

Universities seemed like a fun place to go next. They all have similar use cases for a logo, and like councils, need an institution-wide understanding of design to deliver a lot of different services. Unlike councils, they also have an extensive advertising and marketing function to perform — which is probably why the general standard is a lot higher.

In response to some feedback on the last list, I’ve adopted a more rigorous system for ranking these logos than my largely vibes-based approach for the previous list, which was adopted when I didn’t think anyone would read it.

I spent an afternoon building a round robin tool in JavaScript, which gave me randomised 1v1 pairs of logos, which I clicked through choosing favourites on quickfire instinct until I’d exhausted every possible pair — at which point it generated an ordered list based on their score versus every other logo in the pack. Yes, this meant deliberating over 15,000 pairs. Yes, there were probably better ways I could have spent my afternoon. Yes, I live alone.

The criteria for inclusion are fairly simple. An institution has to be a) based in or operating primarily from the UK (no online degrees in foreign countries) and b) able to offer full degree-level qualifications (with apologies to the eight colleges which only offer foundation degrees).

This includes:

  • 131 Universities plus the University of London (a federal umbrella organisation which doesn’t do its own teaching, but it has its own logo so I included it anyway) and the University of Wales (likewise but about to be abolished)
  • Five independent university colleges with full degree awarding powers
  • 17 University of London member organisations
  • 18 other recognised degree-awarding institutions (mainly art and music schools)

That gives us a total of 173 to play with — a lot shorter list than I dealt with for council rankings, but still quite an undertaking! If you spot one I’ve missed, then you can blame Wikipedia’s list of British universities for not including it.

If you’d like to get in touch to discuss this article or to hire me for your graphic design needs, my website can be found at robinwilde.me and my email address is robin@robinwilde.me.

173. Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance

Oh, we aren’t starting off well. A merger of two much older music and dance schools, Trinity Laban is based in a rather grand neoclassical set of buildings in Greenwich, which in situ will make this terrible chosen font stick out even more. I’m not sure what about music or dance is communicated via a typeface that should be chiselled in granite atop a Soviet Politburo member’s grave. And let’s not get started on the gravitas-free light blue (which to their credit, the website seems to mostly avoid.

172. Edge Hill

What universities and councils have in common is an iron-clad determination to use complicated multicoloured crests even when they’re not up to the range of uses they need to be put to. Edge Hill is the epitome of it, with this baby’s-first-color-wheel scheme and utterly boilerplate layout and type choices. The big underline is aptly chosen, if only because it is literally a big minus.

171. Chester

Bad faux-3D effects are one thing but I think this might literally have been done with the Photoshop Emboss and Bevel layer styles, which is a good way to ensure you can’t deploy it anywhere without it looking low quality and awful. The kerning on the limp and uninspiring text is okay, which is like admitting that Sweeney Todd might have given you a passable haircut before slitting your throat.

170. Aberyswyth

In the basket along with bad faux-3D is random and out of place gradients. They’ve clearly tried to simplify a previous, more complex bit of heraldry, but have lost confidence in themselves and tried to make it look realistic too, hence the sheen on the main design and the warped “1872” text. Everything being set in a system font, apart from the random squiggle deployment mechanism that is Aberystwyth, is the mark of a university that thought nobody would ever be sad enough to sit down and interrogate it. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t reckon with me.

169. Liverpool Hope

Of the many sins a logo can commit, being boring is one (see: the previous four entries) but being an incoherent mish-mash of styles is also pretty high on the list. Being both at once is almost impressive.

What are we doing here, Liverpool Hope? A square-ish sans serif with a complex crest with a serif bit tacked onto the bottom? Pick a lane and stay in it. Preferably heading in the opposite direction.

168. Canterbury Christ Church

I think this is a great example for a little lesson in why good design is about context. The otherwise-unrelated SDLP in Northern Ireland have a logo that’s almost identical in construction, but far better because it communicates things about the organisation it represents. The SDLP logo is in the shape of a shamrock (read: Irish nationalist but not the scary kind) and its colour scheme emphasises the unity of nationalists (green) and unionists (orange) through social democracy (red). The Canterbury Christ Church University logo, by comparison, is three Cs arranged in a pattern. The SDLP logo uses a big bold font to announce itself proudly. The Canterbury Christ Church University logo, by comparison, uses Arial. Can you say “uninspired”?

167. Queen Margaret

This is the ur-example of a logo that just looks ashamed of itself. Dull colours, understated font, little imagery. What’s the main draw for the eye? What about this is screaming “You should enrol here” to me?

166. Liverpool

Man, what is it with Merseyside? They did so well in the council logo rankings, but it seems the local authorities snapped up all the designers and now there’s nothing left for the universities. A weirdly proportioned shield starts this off on the wrong foot, then a combination of brown and blue for a colour scheme comes along to stamp on its toes. This is an insane nit to pick, but the line not matching neatly to the text is a final insult.

165. Royal Agricultural University

There’s a real contagion in poor quality logo design that I will call Peoplewontgetitis. stems from a lack of confidence in one’s own ability to communicate. In this case, you can almost see the deadly condition proceed stage by stage. First, come up with a wordmark that mashes the initials together. Uninspired, but not yet fatal. Then add the coloured stripes because you feel it needs a graphic element. Better add a crest too so people know it’s serious. But what if people don’t know what the letters stand for? Better add the name in full. Ooh, but do you think people will know where we’re based?

The condition has metastasised. It is now too late for poor RAU — another innocent victim of Peoplewontgetitis.

164. Cumbria

My most delightful facts about the University of Cumbria are:

  1. They are nominally in a rivalry with Lancaster University because they have a campus there, but this is entirely one sided and carried on by the Lancaster students to feel superior.
  2. They aggressively insist on calling themselves UoC when abbreviating their name in press releases, because if you had to tell people on LinkedIn that you work for UCUM they would probably bully you, and rightly so.
  3. Everyone calls them UCUM regardless, and rightly so.
  4. They have a logo apparently made from default clip art from PowerPoint 98.

163. Glasgow Caledonian

This is one of those names that comes from showing up last to the fancy dress party once Disco Guy (University of Glasgow) and Sexy Witch (Strathclyde) have already been taken. They needed a word to distinguish themselves from the older Glasgow Uni, so, er, Caledonian? I guess that means nobody will confuse them with one of the other Glasgows. Much as the name has been plucked from the aether, so has the logo, which does absolutely nothing creative and holds no meaning other than as an identifying mark.

Personally, since Glasgow Uni has taken the city and Strathclyde Uni has taken the ancient kingdom, I’d split the difference and call it Glasgow Clydeside University. Then you don’t need to change the initials and it’s less nebulous.

162. Gloucestershire

I get the intention here — trying to suggest a classic university crest without overcomplicating matters. Good start, in fact! But I have, er, questions about the layout. For example, what was the harshest expletive your designer used when you asked them to centre this logo on a page or slide? Or why did you get bored and go for a system font when you lost confidence and shoved the cities in at the bottom?

161. Worcester

For the crime of pre-baked 3D rendering and creating your mark by crossbreeding the Walt Disney W and a pretzel with genes spliced from the Dutch Angle tradition of film shots, I sentence you to #162.

160. Buckingham

That’s a swan who’s on his 56th attempt at this shot, missed lunch because the lighting guys nabbed all the vegan sandwiches, and still hasn’t been paid. In the American university environment where academia is secondary to milking your high value unpaid sports stars for all they’re worth, a furious swan might serve as a useful mascot. Not so for the University of Buckingham.

159. Leeds Trinity

There’s an old Nintendo Game and Watch game called Ball (the company’s first handheld console, fact fans) in which a monochrome stick man juggles balls and you attempt to achieve a high score by juggling for as long as possible without dropping one. Simple I know, but probably qualified for a storytelling in video games award in 1980. I mention it primarily because the Pyramid Head relative with lego bricks for hands seems to be playing it with shurikens in this logo. Remember, crests aren’t inherently bad, but incoherent crests? Oh you’d better believe they’re bad.

158. Regent’s

This one falls into the low end of the boring tier rather than into the ‘abject’ range, although if anything that’s worse because it means it’s tedious to write about as well. The designer here feels like they wanted to do an ambitious rose, realised their technical ability wasn’t up to anything complicated, and so tried to hide it. Also, please see the Gloucestershire logo above for my comments on unbalancing the layout!

157. Liverpool John Moores

The Liver bird illustration isn’t very inspired, it’s true, but the haunting bit of this was when I spotted that the negative space between its neck and its beak forms a furious eye staring directly into your soul. He has seen your crimes, and he is judging you. To think someone would do that with a toilet brush and not even give it a rinse first.

Still, it’s the best one in Liverpool. They can stick that in the prospectus.

156. Coventry

Well at least it’s not as obvious as Lady Godiva, Coventry, we are making progress! I feel a bit sorry for them because Warwick University is in Coventry, so despite having the name they’re not even the most prestigious uni in their city. Evidently the choice of the evolved form of the Lib Dem logo was an attempt to make themselves feel fancy. It has not succeeded (and I am an anti-fan of dull mid-range blues).

155. Cambridge

Well let me never be accused of playing favourites just because a place ranks highly. In defence of Cambridge, they have limitations newer institutions don’t. Firstly they can hardly ditch the utterly generic crest when they’re so prestigious, but secondly, unlike Oxford, whose alumni are grasping politicians and billionaires, Cambridge has a reputation for aesthete Footlights luvvies who think they know about art, and they would probably kick off if they changed it. I still contend it’s far more boring than it has any right to be.

154. Brighton

This would go up 50 places if it turned out that’s actually a stylised asterisk to alert prospective students to some unexpected surprise, like if the campus was actually in Lewes. That not being the case (I assume — I haven’t Googled it) it’s like they took two not very interesting elements, couldn’t think of a way to marry them together, and ended up deciding not to try.

153. Birmingham

Might as well copy paste my comments on why Cambridge is bad, but it gets bumped up a couple of places because they’ve tried a nifty twiddly bit with the ligature between “University” and “of”, and the crest is a bit simpler with some nice internal contrast. It’s still not something you’d look twice at and feel anything other than numb, though — or maybe that’s just my existence.

152. Huddersfield

The teaching may be inspiring, but the logo design isn’t. They’ve been to the same designer as Glasgow Caledonian, the guy who smells faintly of BO and loves to extrude the serifs on capital letters. Once again we have three different fonts chucked together with no nice imagery to distract us from the pile up. Needs an illustration of a grinning Harold Wilson to liven it up.

151. Bolton

Chop off the rightmost 25% of this design and it’d shoot upwards, but for now it’s a classic case of Peoplewontgetitis. An older crest was simplified and reduced to a workable two-color palette (good start) but then confidence was lost and they felt they needed something more modern, but didn’t have a clue what that could be. So we have the return of that classic council logo nemesis, the Random Squiggle.

You can have either the crest or the random squiggle and be a mid table finisher, but they’ve got greedy, eaten both pudding options, and now have a stomach ache.

150. Plymouth

Cambridge University probably has a lot it can be not very proud of (educating Nick Griffin, being the reason Cambridge’s station is so bloody far from the city centre) but for this list’s purposes its primary crime is in setting the schema for what a university logo “should” look like, which in turns has served as an iron clad excuse for uninspired examples like this.

“Could we come up with something more interesting?”

“Works for Cambridge”

149. Reading

Virtually identical to Plymouth and only one place higher because there’s a modicum of artistry to the way the crest has been drawn, and I’m not entirely sure that’s deliberate and not just dodgy use of the Illustrator Image Trace tool.

148. City

When I applied for the University of Sheffield, it was the best Journalism university in the country. While I was at the University of Sheffield, City University overtook us. When I graduated, Sheffield went back up to first. I can only therefore conclude that this was an organised conspiracy by City to do me over personally.

Well, give me a break, there’s not a lot else to discuss, is there?

147. Bath Spa

Gunmetal Blue isn’t a colour to inspire the mind, and this font isn’t doing much to pull up the slack either. Have you noticed that in this context Bath and Spa mean the same thing? Although I suppose we let University College London get away with it.

146. Teesside

You want to be very careful integrating photography into your logo because you immediately rule out a whole bunch of use cases if you do. In this case, that’s a hard no because it’s only there for an abstract sense of motion, which I’d argue you should do with the vector design elements.

Plus, it’s always worth ranking low anything Ben Houchen might try and take credit for. The man would go to the opening of an envelope.

145. Wolverhampton

I kept mixing this one up with Worcester, which is a problem I understand residents of both places get peeved with, but in this case it’s not because of geography but because they both use weird ribbons in lieu of a proper W. They’re onto something with the medieval swallowtail pennant shape (I was going to call it a book ribbon but I thought I’d get emails again) but it’s not used well.

144. Southampton Solent

Well there’s not a lot of life here, but then I guess it’s hard to blame them, not like they’re named after a major geographic feature or anyt-

WAIT A MINUTE.

143. Wrexham Glyndŵr

Ah, Welsh bilingualism strikes again. In fairness they have managed to very consistently copy the design across — it’s just a shame that it’s not up to much. An adequate font, but there’s very little else to inspire.

142. Strathclyde

Ooh, they’ve had a go at marrying classic and modern and that’s to be commended. I prefer the pentagon to the bog standard shield. It’s still too complicated with too many colours, and the font choice falls too hard on the modern side of the equation.

141. UCLAN

Doesn’t call itself the University of Preston for some reason, and being generically Lancashire means they end up using the same imagery as Lancaster, just with a more boring font. Roses with black leaves are goth af, as I believed the Gen Zs say.

140. University of Wales Trinity Saint David

UWTSD sounds like some future incarnation of Star Trek, but sadly you’re unlikely to have access to a holodeck here. It’s competently laid out and your eyes sort of gloss over the bilingual bit because it’s identical top and bottom, but it’s a shame it’s just very, very generic.

139. University College Birmingham

University of California Berkeley has sort of stolen their thunder, hasn’t it. Another law of logo design needs to be instituted: If thou usest a crest, remove any lines from thy design. Else, ye risketh the sin of overdesign, and righteous vengeance must surely follow.

138. Exeter

Random squiggle redeemed slightly by fitting nicely into the layout and being integrated into the X. Like you’re really flamboyantly voting for them. Shame the mid-depth blue and the lack of any other imagery make it dull as water from the Exe.

137. Ashridge Executive Education

Private business school in the Chilterns. Apparently very prestigious but I’m creeped out imagining the red trousered Hooray Henrys who study there. Their logo appears to be a cross sectional diagram of the underside of a horseshoe crab. Hult is one of the business schools that was part of the merger, but it looks as though they’re claiming to be in Hull and can’t spell.

136. Warwick

Ooh, someone’s discovered multi-point gradients in Illustrator. Living next to the University of Washington campus I can hardly throw stones about using a big W for a mark, but I can mock the need to describe yourself twice on adjacent lines. Just put “The University of” above the big W.

135. Salford

My law of crests and lines aside for a minute, I watched Clive Barker’s Hellraiser recently, and that’s probably why the peeking giant gear looming through the shield-shaped mask reminds me of some Lancastrian cenobite poised to invade our world and punish me for opening a puzzle box. That font sets off my Neo Tech detectors, too. Shame, as I like the gear imagery on its own. Pain and pleasure indivisible, indeed.

134. Leicester

This crest shows a shocked moustachioed gentlemen, possibly some kind of royal courtier in a Lewis Carroll book. I have to make these things up to keep myself from falling asleep.

133. Cranfield

This used to be the Royal College of Aeronautics and has a runway on campus so there’s ample opportunities for aeronautical or engineering-related imagery, and yet they have played it as safe as humanly possible. Focus on making your planes safe, not your logo.

132. St Andrews

What is it with the most prestigious universities and having anaemic crest landfill logos? At least some of this is identifiable as Scottish and ties into the local identity.

131. BPP

My cursory Google of this place reveals that it seems to be an absolute turd of a university. One of Britain’s very few private universities, its role seems to be primarily made up of charging law students extortionate fees to qualify for the bar, and then not actually making them ready to do so (as of 2021 they have the lowest graduate employment rate in the country). All of this is relevant to the logo, since a generically British lion revealing no heritage or insight is exactly the sort of thing you’d expect from a sub-par profiteering outfit trying to pose as providing a public service.

Anyway.

130. Lancaster

My antipathy towards Lancaster the city is well documented, so I won’t harp on it too much, other than to say that the distance from the university campus to town is criminal, as are the bus fares required to cover it. It was so bad it was what made me not go to uni there.

For a while it had the only council ward in the country with no permanent residents (University ward) but boundary changes have meant it now includes a sliver of local village.

Its crest is a robot wearing a fez. The leading on the title is too close for comfort (unlike trying to get to Wetherspoons on the bus).

129. London Institute of Banking and Finance

I’ll give it this — it is exactly as exciting as it should be for something called the London Institute of Banking & Finance. And I guess you don’t want a clown on a trampoline holding a sawn-off shotgun for that kind of vibe. But it’s never going to win any awards, is it?

128. Norland

This is a weird one — they offer degree level training courses in childcare and early years development which means their alumni are all nannies for millionaires and international businessmen. Which is something you probably wouldn’t want to shout about, hence devising the least transparent logo you could possibly come up with. It’s so inconspicuous it wraps all the way back around to being suspicious, like wearing a grey tie. Had I not known this was a university, my first guesses would have been 1) mercenary outfit 2) shady consultancy firm 3) luxury sex toy brand.

127. Swansea

Someone at Swansea University has a grudge against me personally so has crammed in as many random tapering squiggles as possible just to get in my face. Not bad imagery but does open them up to being called Book W-anchors, if any local bullies need a steer.

126. Essex

I kind of like this, but “ooh it’s an E” only gets you about 0.6 seconds of my attention before I wonder if there’s anything else coming. Like sitting down for a luxurious dining experience and being served a single Skip on a platter. Fine enough, but where’s the beef?

125. Middlesex

Sociologically interesting that Middlesex went for the scimitars rather than Essex, when of course it’s on the Essex Council logo while Middlesex was correctly destroyed in 1965 (doesn’t stop people writing it on their addresses, mind).

I think they might be using the exact same font as Salford Uni (N.B. no, the Rs are slightly rounder, but definitely from the same family).

124. New College of the Humanities

A donation of just £12 can help us find a cure for the dozens of logos suffering from the effects of Peoplewontgetitis. Oh to have come up with a nice “NCH” described by two letters and Corinthian columns signifying the humanities. But you couldn’t quite trust your audience to understand! And, well, here we are. Seriously, if you want your designer to use this in any position besides the bottom left corner, you’re going to have to give them a pay rise.

123. London South Bank

Not wild about it, especially what looks like the slightly off centre “EST 1892” and the mix of font styles. I’d take it over many of the other crests, though.

122. Glasgow

Ranks higher than some of the other boring crests because of the brutal imagery of a fish being impaled with a lectern (This design might be some reference to St. Mungo, the patron saint of Glasgow who as far as my hazy memory goes, did miracles relating to fish, birds and bells).

121. Birmingham City

I almost went here! Would have sorted them out good and proper if I had. It’s very boring but it’s competently composed, and the lion illustration could be worse. I would have either gone all sentence case or all upper case, personally, and maybe differentiated the lines by font weight.

120. West London

I’m picking up what they’re putting down by visually describing its location in the city (it’s in Ealing so the direction is correct), but that gunmetal grey does not match that cheery blue. And if you’re going to use clean geometry, maybe find a font that isn’t so classic a serif.

119. St Mary’s

Not to be confused with Queen Mary University London, although I’d quite like to see George V’s wife slugging it out with Jesus’s mum in some sort of Super Smash Bros. of people called Mary. I think Ireland should have to pick whether they want MacAleese or Robinson though.

Ahem. I like the varying of tones of blue to differentiate lines of text while keeping the font size consistent. All else is tedium.

118. University of the West of Scotland

Apparently this is based in Paisley and used to be named as such until they expanded into a few other places in the Glaswegian orbit. As much as a word mark can, it has a bit of artistry to it, but it won’t light anyone’s world on fire.

117. Sussex

What is it with universities in Brighton and their total inability to use any imagery related to the city? It’s not as though they’re lacking. I know chucking in a pier or the Grand would be cheap, but better than nothing, right?

116. Harper Adams

An agricultural university in Shropshire which means that in higher education discourse we never hear a thing about it. The attempt to simplify the crest imagery down is actually rather nice, but I’d like to see a secondary highlight colour.

115. Stirling

Stirling has a castle. They don’t mention it much.

114. University of South Wales

Give me something to work with here, lads, anything will do. I’m going to be charitable and assume that curve is meant to be a nod to the way the coastline curves round into the Severn Estuary, even though I’m pretty sure that wasn’t deliberate.

113. London Business School

“Go away and crib something off the LSE, but don’t make it too obvious”

“Okay”

112. Hartpury

Another agricultural college, another example of context being incredibly important — wide marks with sharp angles can make for a great logo if you’re founding an electric car company or a manufacturer of small arms, less so if you’re teaching people to be farmers.

111. Imperial College London

Oh, I do feel a bit of sympathy. So little imagery you can use relating to the word “Imperial” that wouldn’t feel a bit off in the current climate. Still, would it have killed you to whack a stormtrooper helmet from Star Wars on there?

110. Cardiff Metropolitan

A nice serif font made by its ligatures. Also gives me cause for a coda to that rule about lines. Lines can be okay, if they’re not between the crest and the title. Although personally I’d have put each title on one line and stacked them vertically.

Interesting note: The Welsh word for Metropolitan is Metropolitan.

109. Aberdeen

Colourful, squared off crest and a fairly competent font choice that brings some dynamism to a serif. There’s kind of a mismatch with the Futura-esque 1495, though.

108. Royal Northern College of Music

It’s fun to play at the RNCM! 🎶

I don’t mind a random line as much if there’s a bit of artistry to it, and they’ve tried here. It’s a bit music-esque I suppose. Lines on music notation? Tracks on a synthesiser? Sadly, the colours are so dull! Cheer them up a notch lads.

107. Bradford

Ooh, someone reckons they’re going to have a go at modernising the crest device. Not a bad stab, although I feel the second chunk of globe ought to be something different to give each quadrant a distinct flavour. How about a slice of geographic map? Also, not to nit pick — oh well, that’s why we’re here — but I have very much noticed that the dull grey of the crest doesn’t match the black title font.

106. NCG

If you must spell out your initials, then do it subtly like this. Not that it does us much good, mind. I couldn’t tell you from this what New College Group do or what they specialise in. Specialist college providing English Language courses, apparently. All very noble, but you’d think that’d make you good at communicating clearly.

105. Dundee

Simplified just enough to not be annoying, but the innovation has stalled there. It’s, you know, fine.

104. University of Wales

Bit of a weird story, this. It used to be a federal body like the University of London, but after a series of scandals it’s now slated for abolition and all its component universities have gone independent. Despite having zero students, it’s still extant, and has a few thousand students overseas. I tell you this because it has nothing else interesting going on, other than the wry amusement of noting the imagery shows the bonds between its member universities, all of which have, er, broken up with it.

103. Southampton

Interesting font only in that it doesn’t connect the bulb of the A or the P with the spines of those letters. No, sorry, interesting is the wrong word.

102. Greenwich

Clear imagery! Definitely near the Greenwich Meridian! Drawn in that 1990s monocolor way where they use negative space for the illusion of directional lighting. A bit dated, perhaps, but interesting as a design relic.

101. Durham

This is obscure, but the contrast in width between the constituent areas of each letter is too high, and it feels like some of them are about to snap. Also suffers from the Gloucestershire problem where the crest can’t find a place to sit comfortably. Elevating it does draw the eye, but makes deployment awkward.

100. Lincoln

An absolutely bog standard classic serif version of the crest and text logo.

99. Chichester

An absolutely bog standard updated sans serif version of the crest and text logo. Only with a really annoying line which is attempting to bridge the gap and make the whole design into a neat rectangle, but doesn’t go all the way across (which would necessitate shrinking the crest) so just looks like an error.

98. University of London

Not really a university since all the actual teaching is done by its federal constituent universities, but for that it doesn’t have an awful logo. I would free the shining rose and crown from the flag and shield and make them the lone centrepiece.

97. Leeds Beckett

The above suggestion for University of London ably demonstrated here by Leeds Beckett. I like the differentiation by font weight on the text, but I’m not wild about this purple and I think it would benefit from a secondary colour.

96. Edinburgh Napier

If I’m not mistaken this is a quite abstract representation of Edinburgh’s place on the eastern shoulder of Scotland, which I quite appreciate for its simplicity. It’s not going to win any awards, but it’s better than overdesigning.

95. York

Oh, York, you could have done so well — your council did! — but that overblown and not very realistic handwriting font has sent you tumbling down the rankings. Better luck next time.

94. Aston

Pretty much a direct rip off of Edinburgh Napier, now I look at them side by side, and without the benefit of it sitting on the coast. It does use a slightly nicer font and colour.

93. Queen Mary

Nice integration of the Q with the crown design, good work and avoids the random squiggle inherent in the Q’s tail. Shame they’ve paired it with two rather austere fonts that don’t suggest majesty.

92. York St. John

I can’t even invoke the rule of lines here, because they’ve just forgotten to put in any design elements. It’s actually rather impressively minimalist. Bonus marks for audacity.

91. Surrey

My mum went here in the early 1980s! Like everything else in Surrey (councils included) it’s obsessed with stags. In this case, a character from the next Kingdom Hearts game, judging by its elaborate keyblade. Boring colour combination, competent execution.

90. Derby

I quite like the monoline hills, beats the council logo snail. Probably doesn’t use a ram because local school leavers will be well aware of the sheep shagger jokes and they are keen to avoid that. Inoffensive, serious dark blue is rapidly becoming to university logos what apolitical green and purple were to councils.

89. St. George’s

Deeply disappointing that they’ve missed the opportunity to show a dragon getting impaled. It’d stop you dead if you saw it on the side of a bus during clearing season, admit it.

88. Brunel

My Rule of Lines is being deliberately flaunted here, possibly as some kind of political protest. Not just a line between crest and text (wrong, but common), but one on the right (maybe intending to create a box shape?) and a tiny one on the left? Brunel, are you alright? I genuinely hope things are okay for you. Reach out if you need to talk.

Features the goose from Untitled Goose Game stealing a vital cog from a machine in a factory. I would like to play that DLC level.

That red contrasts nicely with the standard dark blue. More unis should use it.

87. Winchester

Nicely geometric version of the fairly simple crest here, which I rather like, especially the checkerboard pattern (I’m sure it has a name, heraldry nerds, no I don’t want to hear about it). The random line I could do without, however. And would a splash of colour kill you?

86. Westminster

Ooh, not nearly as trad as I feared! The right angle portcullis is nice, although I do wonder why it’s so small. You could plausibly replace the M with it for a nice bit of integration, although it could also look naff. Maroon is a… bold choice of colour.

85. Bangor

Just like council logos, universities in Wales benefit when their name is spelled the same in both English and Welsh. Quite enjoying the lion disco taking place on the crest. Shame about the poor squished lad in the middle.

84. Manchester Metropolitan

A bit like the classic recycle symbol during its goth phase. The slab serif is nice, but the inconsistent line width on the main device is starting to bother me.

83. University for the Creative Arts

Ooh, it’s like an old seven-segment display, only without the wedges in the corners which make those things legible. Still, it’s original, I’ll give it that. Also quite like that the four marks (if you include the text) form a central cross, which does help give it some balance. Still really missing these things having some colour!

82. Arden

Evil corporation in a video game. Well executed, totally unsuitable for context, makes me wonder what mad hermit in a cave with his pet birds and a copy of Illustrator came up with it.

81. Royal College of Art

Being an art college and taking absolutely no opportunity not to bat this one straight down the line must take a superhuman level of restraint which I can only salute.

80. Bishop Grosseteste

A fairly small university in Lincoln which does a lot of teacher training courses. Primary comment: I really really hate its name. It contains both “gross” and “teste”, neither of which are ideal. I know he was a 13th century Bishop of Lincoln and University of Lincoln was already taken, but come on.

Design wise, it’s okay. Religious imagery derives from the name, obviously. Quite a big fan of having more Dark Souls bosses on logos. Because there’s two, it might be reminding me of the Gargoyles.

79. Bournemouth University

A relatively early glimpse of that modern trend for gradients! Slab serif title is alright and I don’t hate the little maze device.

78. Writtle University College

Says 1893, actually only became a University in 2017. Teaches a lot of horticulture, apparently. Nice simple device, not much high concept going on.

77. Kent

If you ever hear your phone go at 2am, it’s probably the creepy Kent K sliding into your DMs. Chalk up another one for Institutional Dark Blue. When I’m next apocalyptically bored I should check the colour codes on these and see how many universities directly copied each other.

76. De Montfort

This, I kind of like. A stylised lion would have been easy not to do, and nobody would have complained about a more classical representation. Font choice is solid but unremarkably. A bolder red would have been welcome.

75. Arts University Bournemouth

So nearly a good one, but the horrible sucked-Jelly-Baby curves on the letters (a telltale sign of Lato Black if I’m not mistaken) let it down.

74. Open University

Quite a nice and innovative bit of design when it was devised. What knocks it down is the slapdash application of the text which is too widely leaded, not near enough to the main device, and in a font which doesn’t match the pleasing geometric curves.

73. Heriot-Watt

Engineering uni in Edinburgh, named after steam pioneer James Watt and some bloke nobody remembers, which means he probably put up the cash. In fact, his name’s first, so he definitely put up the cash. Dark grey is rapidly becoming the cousin of Institutional Dark Blue, although they’ve miraculously managed to keep this logo fairly compact in its layout, which gets points.

72. Bedfordshire

Nice contemporary design, good font choice, and a nod to the university crest trope which spells UB if you squint hard enough. Personally I’d have ditched that bit and just had the one on the left, because it’s not obvious enough.

71. Staffordshire

Ah the Staffordshire knot, we meet again. Your locals loved my comments on it last time. The red is nice, and at least there’s a bit of artistry in constructing it from negative space.

70. Sunderland

Graphic lifted from a Dreamcast-era fighting game super move, but that’s okay. It’s chunky and confident in its font choice and use of motion, which I like, but it is, admittedly, rather abstract.

69. Richmond

Decent design principles in action here, and I’m a sucker for a condensed US flag. As a hybrid Unitedstatesio-British expat, I should like this more than I do. Why I don’t rate it higher is hard to put my finger on, and I suspect if I’m honest with myself there’s some kind of ingrained suspicion of the upstart colony playing a role. We Brits can be unfairly kneejerk about not liking the USA sometimes.

68. Bath

Depicting a Gorgon of classical Greek myth, the Bath University logo is undoubtedly rather striking. Quite ironic to use a creature known for being so hideous it causes those who look at it to go blind in your visual identity standards, but I assume the designers themselves had a lot of fun with that idea. Ditch that random line, though!

67. Kingston

Simple, but basically effective. Reminds me of one of the New Labour manifesto covers.

66. Institute of Cancer Research

Yeah, hard one to bring across visually, isn’t it. The imagery they do have is decent enough as a representation of advancement towards progress, I suppose, although there may be something I’m not getting about the colour gradient being used.

65. Plymouth Marjon

Used to be called the University of St. Mark and St. John, so I can understand why they shortened it, but I do find it very hilarious that they apparently did it down the pub in about three minutes.

Design wise, the deconstruction of the crest is a nifty idea that I wish we saw more of. Shame about the gunmetal blue (again).

64. Suffolk

Another “We are on the coast” triangle, although done quite nicely compared to Edinburgh Napier and I like that yellow for a highlight colour.

63. Nottingham Trent

Eternally grateful to Trent because I was once in Nottingham during an utterly torrential rain storm and got dry in their SU café. Nice font matches with simplified shield device. I basically dig it.

62. Abertay

Slab serifs are an easy way to my heart, it’s undeniably true. And if you must crest, flatten your colours like these guys have.

61. Leeds

Nice text notches ✅
Negative space Art Deco architecture ✅
Pleasingly geometric frame ✅

60. Buckinghamshire New University

Absolutely bodying the Buckinghamshire Uni logo first by implying a new one was needed, and secondly by doubling the quantity of swans involves in the process. Torch is a bit amateurishly drawn but I don’t hate the line-only style, although I wish there was a bit more consistency.

59. King’s College London

If you must do a line, the thin-thick construction fits with serifs temperamentally (possibly because we associate it with old, and therefore implicitly learned, books). The red background frame helps a lot here, and gives it a modern geometric dynamism the trad font alone can’t.

58. The Courtauld Institute

Not a big university (only around 500 students) this one specialises in art history and preservation. Noble enough (unless you want to go there to become an art forger — I’m not judging, the money’s good) but I wish they’d settle on a consistent font. The cropped C is I think meant to be a nod to Waterloo Bridge, from which this is round the corner.

57. Loughborough

I was briefly a member of their Students’ Union by virtue of doing my A Levels at Loughborough College, and they’ve clearly had a rebrand since then. If you must use a crest, a reasonably simple one like this isn’t a bad choice, and that font looks like it could operate well in both display and copy roles.

56. Leeds Arts University

Trad serifs meet modern hot pink and abstract geometry. I dig it.

55. Nottingham

Breaks the Line Law and has a random squiggle to boot, but since the squiggle is meant to represent a hilltop I suppose I can let it slide. Gunmetal blue rears its head again. Negative space battlement isn’t badly drawn and nice almost-symmetry on display.

54. Presbytarian Theological Faculty Ireland

Surprisingly less Ian Paisley, fire and brimstone, scowling disapproval grade design than I had in mind. In fact, surprisingly modernist — is that Helvetica I see? Shame about the brown colour scheme.

53. Rose Bruford College

Solid idea here. It’s perfect for a performance school — the kind of sheared bold text that has just dropped onto one knee and done some jazz hands under a spotlight. It’s just… well, it’s very large, isn’t it. Relative to the other elements. Dial it back by 50% and we’d be onto something good.

52. BIMM Institute

Ooh, this is like one of those entry-level spatial awareness puzzles isn’t it. “How many triangles can you see in this image?”

BIMM Institute sounds like a Sahara-dry think tank that produces reports on, I dunno, Orcadian devolution for the Scottish Liberal Democrats. In fact they run a chain of music schools.

51. UEA

Slicing up your serifs into their constituent parts can be a delightful way to subvert expectations while also demonstrating your heritage, and I like the hot pink accent. Norwich is a lovely city, by the way. Highly underrated, and I recommend you visit. The university is basically in King’s Lynn for how long the fucker takes to reach by bus, mind.

50. The Dyson Institute

I think this is named after James Dyson of vacuum and general tosser fame, not Freeman Dyson of sphere and climate denier tosser fame. It’s pretty much the same concept as Kingston, seen earlier in this list, but the flipping of the text on Institute is a nifty touch so it gets extra points. Since it’s an actual unique idea, I’ll assume Jimmy D. didn’t come up with it himself.

49. Northampton

Like it as a bit of minimalist layout, can’t help but read it as UNO even though that isn’t the letter order, can’t help but see it as someone hunched up against a wall with a bowl perched on their knee. Reminds me of the first night I moved into my apartment and realised it wasn’t furnished.

48. Royal Central School of Speech and Drama

Not hugely inspired as these things go, but at least the line is deployed reasonably and not in a way that breaks up the text. There’s a small nod to theatre lights in the stroke around Royal Central which I rather enjoy.

47. Royal College of Music

Fair play, I did tell councils in the last list to announce themselves proudly, and this certainly does that. It might be the only example we’ve seen in either list of a fully vertical logo. Frankly I would quite like to bring the line height in a bit but on the other hand I’m already thinking of ways you could animate that nicely in After Effects. Ditch that horrible cursive London and it would rise higher.

46. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine

Reminds me of this delightfully old timey Labour poster from the 1923 election. Like what they’ve done with the block of text fitting into a nice rectangle, less wild about the very clearly image traced chariot device. But it’s fine. Good, even!

45. Manchester

Used to go past a lot of their buildings on trains through Manchester in the Before Time and while I quite like incorporating the Est 1824 into the name, highlighting it in yellow does smell a bit pleased with itself. Just reducing the size on the S and T would have led more people to work it out on their own and feel clever, like the Fedex Arrow. The full name underneath is totally unnecessary.

44. AECC

My expectations were subverted and from there the design plaudits arose. Not sure why we haven’t seen more fully geometric crests. They’re a nice cross of classic and modern.

43. University of Law

Much like the Business and Banking example earlier, this is a design you wouldn’t exactly want to be exciting, but unlike that example they have at least injected a bit of life.

42. Newcastle

Viking heritage! Red and blue contrast! It’s all there! Newcastle is a hidden gem of a city that if you haven’t been to you should absolutely visit. Full of good design, too (check out the Metro).

41. Northumbria

Quite funny to me that Northumbria and Newcastle have virtually identical logos and that they’ve ended up ranking right next to one another. I marginally prefer this one because the font is better and the gear/heraldry combination is one that appeals to me. I’d like to think that’s because it’s a thought provoking contrast of ancient and modern, but actually it’s probably because it reminds me of Thief 2: The Metal Age.

40. Portsmouth

At my university, the main library was called the Information Commons, frequently shortened to IC. Couldn’t really do that here without inviting childish playground jokes, could you. Nice playing with light going on here, but the purple is a bit too dark, resulting in a muddy effect in the crossover area.

39. Guild Hall School

I like logo design that plays with angles, and with this colour choice you couldn’t exactly charge it with hiding itself away.

38. Edinburgh

I dig this, as I would say if I was a beatnik. The simple hand drawn design stands out, particularly against such a complementary background red. Institutional Dark Blue can be forgiven since it is very Scottish.

37. Newman

Nice icon designs on that shield, the sort of thing you’d download from the Noun Project if you were in a hurry. Once more, I am critical of the decision to use maroon, but the fonts are good and the location is subtly enough to avoid Peoplewontgetitis.

36. Goldsmiths

Certainly is gold, so points for consistently. Although obviously I’m not viewing it on a futuristic screen with reflectivity, so it’s actually a sort of light caramel colour. Now I’m hungry.

35. Oxford

Oxford achieves final victory over Cambridge, but finishes below its real rival, Brookes. Sometimes you’ve got to watch your back. This is a good example of how to turn heritage imagery into something fairly modern.

34. Hertfordshire

This ranks highly partly because after seeing it 200 times while doing these rankings, I kept laughing every time I imagined it being used in a clearing ad online. Hard to bring across someone being enthused, isn’t it? “Where are you going to study this September?” “UH”. Anyway, visually it’s bold and confident and clean which are all pluses for me, even if Helvetica is cheating when you’re trying to achieve that look.

33. UWE

I always confuse this with UEA which is probably because they’re three letter initialisms, and they’re in cities with funny accents and bohemian reputations. Lose the line and it’d be a good example of a word-only mark, deploying Kings’ red containing box for good effect.

32. Royal Veterinary College

Impressive commitment to wordmark here with no reference to animals at all. The V serving as a cursor pointing to its specialism might be obvious but I like type being used as a graphical element, and that hasn’t come up much so far.

31. East London

The phoenix rising amidst grinding cogs and shining its rays upon you is an image that is, I’m afraid to say, extremely rad. Who cares that the stolid black serif of the title doesn’t live up to those expectations?

30. Sheffield

Ah, the old Alma Mater. A more subtle version of the King’s Box frames the crest and title in a way that keeps them modern and also assists with adequately spacing them in relation to other elements. I did a bit of work for the University’s Law School and happen to know that’s a custom font called Stephenson, named after a local foundry which was once the world’s largest producer of metal type. So how’s that for heritage? That said, I’ve always sort of hated that light blue and that yellow on the crown, so it can’t go higher.

The motto in Latin means “to discover the causes of things” which if I’m ever given control over a rebrand will 100% be bastardised into “Finding out stuff”.

I’m going to now make a big, open offer to the University of Sheffield. I will escalate you ten places — yes, you’ll make the top 25 — if you bring back the Great British Sundays menu at Interval. This isn’t even for me, I’m no longer in the country. But the students of tomorrow deserve better than hummus wraps and sweet potato fries. The offer’s on the table. Email me.

29. Queen’s University Belfast

The obvious need to avoid being seen as partisan in the constitutional debate does potentially hit up against literally being called Queen’s, but they’ve done well with it, incorporating specifically Northern Irish imagery with some good icon work.

28. Ravensbourne

Deconstructing the classic shield design into its component parts in a way that communicates free thinking activity is a nice touch. You can imagine the blue dots floating around like thought bubbles, but also being dispensed with if an even simpler design is called for.

27. Robert Gordon

Another one that was meant to be good for journalism when I was doing UCAS, but Mum didn’t want me to move so far away. She then moved to Aberdeenshire the following year. Oh well. Logo is a bit like a towel being wrung out, but I’m a sucker for chunky compressed fonts and two-tone purple.

26. Oxford Brookes

Two fonts complementing each other nicely, and having Brookes centred and prominent is the only way to play it when you’re the less prestigious of the two unis in the place. You don’t need to be like those poshos, Oxford Brookes. You’re good as you are. Maybe brighten up that green.

25. Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine

Random squiggles saved by it being Liverpool and therefore able to be read as sails. Additional points for not falling back on a Liver Bird.

24. London Metropolitan University

Mmm, deliciously minimalist and I’m into the consistent line width of the font. Arranging simple shapes into more complex ones is a favourite design technique of mind, and the implication of all roads leading to London is tastefully done.

23. SOAS

A trad design at first, but actually made up of lots of small vector elements which is nifty! Stands for School of Oriental and African Studies but they tend to abbreviate it these days, presumably because that’s not all they do.

22. Norwich University of the Arts

You know Norwich University of the Arts, if you keep swinging back on your chair like that you’ll crack your head open on the radiator. The two colours here complement one another nicely and there’s a quiet confidence to the composition that uses the box to keep things symmetrical and balanced. Apparently they do decent game design courses.

21. Ulster

It’s a simple design, but slicing off the right hand of the U and creating a flying bird out of it is quite inspired. I like the font a lot and feel as though I’ve seen and used it before, but I can’t quite pinpoint which it is. I don’t think it’s Helvetica because the T is wrong.

20. UCL

Negative space and a small icon! Both things I’m into, and emphasising the chunky font spells confidence. Good job.

19. University of the Arts London

Used to see a lot of signage for this when I was down working in Elephant and Castle before The Current Unpleasantness and was always rather into it. The brand guidelines are worth reading because quite a lot of thought’s gone into it. For instance, the colon is a bold statement of intent, but it also lets them name individual colleges or departments as sub brands without losing the identity. Clever.

18. Falmouth

The university for arty types who aren’t fussed about sacrificing nightlife in order to spend three years in Cornwall. I’m a documented fan of slicing up fonts and this is as good an example as any. A purist would say it technically says FALMOUTtI but a purist can do one.

17. Bristol

That fish is, ironically, having a whale of a time (you see, because whales are actually mammals and-)

Sorry, I’ve been slapped back into my senses. This is good. Rectangular bounding box, but complexity within and great use of negative space. Solid.

16. Royal Academy of Music

It’s a little bit Pac Man but the crescendo marks are both well executed and subtle, a strong underline for the 60s modernist font and also a treat for those with a bit of music theory. The three colour white, black, red system is one I’m fond of in my own work (I do a lot of work for the German Empire).

15. Sheffield Hallam

This used to have the retro 90s reversed-out negative space look, with the slogan “Sharpens your thinking” which a Hallamite friend of mine pithily altered to “Sharpens your drinking”. Uni of/Hallam rivalry aside (how many Varsities is that now? Nine?) it’s a nice bit of chunky slab serif design with the two tones functioning nicely side by side, and when I was walking around the city it was always the SHU signage that made the bigger impression.

14. Royal Holloway

If GMB ran a university, they’d probably give it this colour scheme. Neatly solves the layout issue of how you position a crest in relation to text by just doing them side by side (this would also allow you to crop one out and use them as separate bits of branding, although I don’t know what their guidelines have to say on that topic).

The crest has translated well to one colour reversed, although I can’t help but spot that the Latin motto (which means “To be, rather than to seem” is in a Windows system font. Seeming is a bit important too.

13. University of the Highlands and Islands

Very nice — not sure if inspired by West Lothian’s quality council logo which takes a similar tack, but either way it’s well drawn and feels organic while sticking to simple shapes and the rectangular bounding box. The two languages are handled well — it’s a lot of text but doesn’t feel like it somehow.

12. London Interdisciplinary School

I couldn’t quite get my head round what this place is. It only opened this year and seems to train people in holistic “problem solving” courses rather than specific subjects which all sounds a bit Dominic Cummings to me. Still, nice overall design system I can see being incredibly flexible. Reminds me of the old vector graphics in Elite, or more recently the UI style in Kentucky Route Zero.

11. University College of Estate Management

Another one of those places you don’t want to look too interesting, but they manage to keep things serious while adding a modicum of sleek modernity. It’s understated but cool, like a countercultural writer in a roll neck and shades.

10. Plymouth College of Art

Nice! Implies not only that art happens, but that your art could go in the frame if you study here! I mean probably not, statistically speaking, but good marketing!

9. Roehampton

Ooh, they’ve broken down the R into coherent geometric shapes which collectively form a crestlike object. Used a single highlight colour to draw the eye to an otherwise consistent use of a solid slab serif. Good work.

8. Hull

We defy your crest stereotypes, says Hull. We’re going to Heston-style deconstruct your notions of a crest and serve them to you as five morsel-sized courses over an evening. By the end of it you’ll be a changed person.

7. Cardiff

Love it — not just the organic and free-flowing layout of the lettering, but some nice nods to pronunciation in there — chaining the DD together for a “th” sound in the Welsh version, yes, but also making the key phonemes in the word larger. Great Welsh colour choice completes the package.

6. Anglia Ruskin

Anglia Ruskin’s noble monoline heron is so much better than Cambridge that it’s not even funny. The gold colouring, crown and his head being held high is an unsubtle two fingers to the idea that they’re inferior to their ancient neighbour. Just because it might not be true doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing to promote. I hope they still advertise on the railway signs coming into Cambridge, because that was undeniably excellent trolling.

5. Birkbeck

Birkbeck, for context, teaches night courses primarily to mature students and people working while they study. With or without that context, that wise owl is offering me a sword and sending me on a grid-based RPG journey to rescue the kingdom, so I was already well up for it. What nudges this into the upper bands of this list is the wonderful crescent moon dot on the I. It’s subtle, but it speaks to a designer who took a lot of care.

4. LSE

Classy and classic. A lot of confidence, and I’m a big fan of the art deco style of the font. It’s the kind of university logo that would have spent the 1920s giving Victor Gollancz the idea for the Left Book Club and been a contemporary of George Orwell before being tragically killed in the Battle of the Ebro. More of this please.

3. Keele

Complexity from simplicity will be carved onto my tombstone, and Keele University will pay for the upkeep. At least, I think that’s what the sickle is subtly telling me. Love the interplay of geometry and colour here. A very solid effort indeed.

2. Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

A more talented pianist than me will be able to tell me if there’s anything musical being communicated in that mark (I’m almost certain there is) but even if not it’s a great bit of simple communication. I don’t think I would need the words to know it was an elite music school, but even with them there, they marry together in the layout well enough that it doesn’t feel tacked on or superfluous.

1. University College of Osteopathy

I knew this would rank highly the moment I saw it, and so it proved. A superb combination of colours here is the icing on a rich, moist, spine manipulating cake.

Incorporating the (rather scientifically dubious, I must add) act of manipulating muscles, bones and nerves into the logo in a way that also spells out their initials is very inspired, and doubly so for managing not to come across as uncomfortably visceral or tonally inappropriate. Osteopathy may be medically questionable for anything more serious than a bad back, but hey, at least they’re well branded.

If you’re an osteopath and you’re about to send me an email, please don’t. You’re well paid enough that I’m no threat to you.

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Robin Wilde