American college logos: The best college logos in the US
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American college logos: The best college logos in the US

American College Logos

American college logos are some of the most recognizable icons in the US. Often considered a beacon of pride by students and alumni, the best college logos inspire passion and community. Many students carry their American college logo with them throughout their lives, on sweatshirts and hats.

Like all logos, famous college logos in America are intended to tell a story, inspire the people who see them, and differentiate the facility they represent.

Representing an important transitional period in a student’s life, a college logo can become one of the most emotional pieces of branding any consumer connects with.

Today, we’re going to be celebrating some of the stories and creativity behind the top college names and logos in the US. Here’s your complete guide to some of the most memorable college logo designs and what they look like today.

American colleges vs universities: What’s the difference?

Notably, colleges and universities in the United States aren’t exactly the same. In different parts of the world, these two terms are used interchangeably to refer to facilities offering higher education. While in the US, both colleges and universities do offer higher education, they each have a specific focus.

For the most part, schools with “college” in the title will be smaller institutions focused primarily on undergraduate education. While there are exceptions to this rule, you’re less likely to find post-graduate teaching at a college than at a university.

Liberal arts colleges give students educations in a range of academic areas, rather than asking them to focus on a specific subject, like a university. There are also “community colleges”, which grant associate degrees and certificates designed to ensure quick employment.

For the purpose of this article, we’re focusing specifically on education institutions with the word “college” in their names. Check out our American universities article if you want to take a closer look at American university logos.

Sarah Lawrence College

Located in New York (Yonkers), Sarah Lawrence College models its educational approach after the Oxford/Cambridge system. At Sarah Lawrence, students can expect a focus on scholarship in the performing arts, humanities, and writing landscapes.

High value is often placed on independent study at Sarah Lawrence too.

The Sarah Lawrence College logo features the name of the college, depicted in a bold serif font, with a gryphon standing atop the wordmark. The fryphon is the mascot of Sarah Lawrence College, so it often appears in both the facility’s primary logo, and its athletic branding.

Smith College

Smith College is a women’s college in the Massachusetts region (North Hampton). Originally launched in 1871, the college is the largest member of historic community of colleges called the Seven Sisters Colleges.

The Seven Sisters Colleges is a group of elite women’s educational facilities in the North East of the United States.

The Smith College logo is a simple but effective wordmark, featuring the brand colors of dark blue and gold. The name of the college appears in a modern serif font alongside a blue diamond, with the letters “S” and “C” placed within.

Colby College

Located in Waterville, Maine, Colby College is a private liberal arts college founded in 1813. The institution includes a 714-acre site which sits on top of Mayflower Hill.

Colby is one of the most selective liberal art facilities in the country, which has helped it to earn a position as a “little Ivy” college.

The Colby College logo features the name “Colby” in a simple serif font, where the “C” and “O” in the name seems to be connected. Alongside the wordmark is the seal of the college, which features a white starburst, and the Latin phrase, “Knowledge is the light of the mind.”

Barnard College

Barnard is another private women’s arts college located in New York City. Created in 1889 by Annie Nathan Meyer after the Columbia University refused to admit women, Barnard College is an icon in history.

Barnard is one of the four undergraduate colleges in Columbia University, but it maintains financial and legal autonomy.

The Barnard College logo usually just shows the name of the college in serif font (similar in style to Times New Roman). However, this image is sometimes accompanied by a large capital “B” surrounded by laurel leaves, indicating heritage and history.

Hamilton College

Situated in Clinton, New York, Hamilton College is a private liberal arts facility, founded as the Hamilton-Oneida Academy in 1793. The name was changed to simply Hamilton College in 1812, in honor of Alexander Hamilton.

Like several American colleges, Hamilton focuses exclusively on undergraduate education, with 57 areas of study.

Hamilton College’s logo uses the college’s name in a serif font, written in standard sentence case. The institutional logo sometimes features the iconic Chapel Cupola with a quill weathervane. The design is supposed to represent the architectural history of the college.

Grinnell College

Grinnell College is located in Grinnell, Iowa, where it was founded in 1846. The location has the fifth largest endowment-to-student ratio for any liberal arts college, enabling a range of need-blind admissions and academic merit scholarships.

Students can even receive funding for underpaid and unpaid summer internships.

According to Grinnell, its American college logo is intended to be a “stamp of quality”, featuring a bold word mark with a simple emblem placed alongside it. The design is simple and memorable, with a set of red laurel leaves to indicate history and heritage.

Davidson College

Another great pick for our list of famous college logos, Davidson College is located in North Carolina, Davidson, where it’s home to around 1983 students. Around 95% of the students at this college live on campus, and they have around 29 majors and 40 minor topics to choose from.

The Davidson College logo is modern and memorable, showcasing a serif wordmark in all capital letters, with a bold red line beneath. The white diamond within the red underline is an excellent symbol of the college’s commitment to quality and class.

Middlebury College

Founded in 1800, Middlebury was the first institution of higher education in Vermont. The college currently offers education to around 2,526 students form 74 countries, with 44 majors in the arts, literature, humanities, and other topics.

In addition to an undergraduate liberal arts program, Middlebury also has a range of graduate schools connected to it.

The Middlebury College logo is similar in style to many of the university logos in the US. This image includes the name of the college in serif font, depicted in a dark blue color. There’s an open book, a chapel, and a globe placed in a blue and white shield alongside the wordmark.

The shield represents knowledge, global acceptance, and history.

Carleton College

Ranked within the top 10 colleges in the US since 1997, Carleton is one of the most sought-after locations for undergraduate teaching. The educational facility is located in Northfield Minnesota, and has a little over 2000 students.

Today, Carleton supports a host of student groups, and students at the college have included 112 National Science Foundation graduate fellows.

The logo for Carleton College is simple but effective. The name of the institution appears in simple serif font, written alongside a capital “C” surrounded by a starburst effect. The design is intended to represent enlightenment.

Claremont McKenna College

Otherwise known as “CMC”, Claremont McKenna College is a private liberal arts college situated in Claremont California. The college has a specific focus on government, public affairs, economics, international relations, and finance in its curriculum.

The CMC is also a member of the consortium of Claremont Colleges.

Representing universal acceptance, knowledge, and strength, the Claremont McKenna College logo is a professional-looking emblem. The standard wordmark is visible – as with most American college logos, alongside an image of an open book, a staff, and a globe.

The globe is intended to represent the position of the college in the Claremont consortium.

Bowdoin College

A private liberal arts college in Maine, Brunswick, Bowdoin College is one of the better-known colleges in America. The location was first chartered in 1794, at a time when Maine was still part of the Massachusetts commonwealth.

Today, the private college represents a highly sought-after location for higher education.

While most people associate the Bowdoin College logo with the location’s mascot (the polar bear), the official logo is actually just a serif wordmark written in black (or white on a black background).

The simple design is intended to demonstrate sophistication and professionalism.

Wellesley College

Wellesley College is one of the many private women’s colleges in America. Founded in 1870, this college is situated in Wellesley, Massachusetts, and it forms a part of the powerful Seven Sisters colleges community.

There are a total of 56 interdepartmental and departmental majors available from Wellesley, spanning the liberal arts.

Written in all-capitals, the Wellesley College logo is an eye-catching wordmark depicting the name of the educational institution, and a large, stylized “W”. The “W” almost looks like a set of interlaced Roman numerals. This helps to highlight the historical nature of the facility.

Pomona College

Another private liberal arts college situated in California, Claremont, Pomona College was first launched in 1887. The educational facility today is one of the founding members of the Claremont Colleges consortium of affiliated, adjacent institutions.

Pomona enrolled around 1,700 students during the fall 2021 semester, and the location offers 48 liberal arts disciplines in total.

The Pomona College logo apparently represents a pillar from the college gates. The design also highlights the date when the college first officially opened its doors.

Referencing the official launch date of the college is a common practice among educational institutions trying to highlight their history for potential students.

Swarthmore College

When it comes to listing the best college logos in America, the Swarthmore College is one of the first institutions to come to mind. Located in Pennsylvania, this college first appeared in 1864, but didn’t start holding classes until 1869.

Despite this, Swarthmore is one of the earliest coeducational colleges to appear in the United States.

The Swarthmore College logo is quite a detailed emblem, showing the architecture of the college built itself, with the name “Swarthmore” written beneath in all capital serif type.

The detailed nature of the college logo, combined with the passionate color red helps to create a powerful and memorable image for the educational institution.

Amherst College

Amherst College in Amherst Massachusetts was first founded in 1821, in an attempt to relocate Williams College. The third-oldest institution of higher education for Massachusetts, Amherst became co-educational in 1975.

Today, the facility focuses exclusively on undergraduate education, with just under 2000 students as of 2018.

With Amherst’s College logo, we get a memorable wordmark, written in serif font, in the purple and white coloring for the institution.

The seal of the college is also evident in this logo, which includes the open book (representative of education), a sunburst, and the motto for the college: “Let them enlighten the lands”.

Williams College

Established as a men’s college in 1793, Williams College is located in Williamstown Massachusetts. The main campus is located in Williamstown, in the Berkshires (northwestern Massachusetts), with more than 100 academic and residential buildings.

This college in America follows a liberal arts curriculum, with instruction in 25 academic departments.

The official Williams College logo is a bright purple wordmark, written in normal sentence case, with thick feet on the letters. The design of the typography is excellent for conveying ideas of sophistication and stability, while the purple denotes creativity.

Dartmouth College

Probably one of the better-known colleges in the United States, Dartmouth College is actually a private Ivy League institution, offering both graduate and undergraduate courses in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Dartmouth is the ninth oldest institution of higher education in the United States, and one of the nine colleges chartered before the American revolution.

Dartmouth has an eye-catching logo featuring the traditional wordmark used by most college institutions, and a large, capital D, in Dartmouth green. Within the letter D is the “Lone Pine”, a tree planted the university was first established in the year of the college’s founding.

Boston College

Another of the various “American colleges” offering both undergraduate and graduate colleges, Boston College was initially founded in 1863. The location is known for offering a wide variety of degrees, including master’s and doctor’s degrees.

Alumni of the facility include governors, members of congress, ambassadors, and scholars from around the world.

Similar in style to a modern American university logo, the Boston College logo combines the seal of the educational facility, with a wordmark. The wordmark is depicted in serif golden font, while the seal logo sits alongside in red and gold.

The seal shows the open book of education, and the Latin motto “Ever to Excel”.

Lafayette College

Lafayette College, based in Easton, Pennsylvania, is a private liberal arts college founded in 1826. The location first held classes in 1832, and was named after General Lafayette, one of the heroes of the American revolution.

The Lafayette College is considered by many to be a “hidden” Ivy College, and one of the North-eastern “Little Ivies”.

The Lafayette College logo is a simple wordmark, featuring serif font, written in a deep maroon shade. The coloring is sophisticated and professional, as is the positioning of the words.

The line between “Lafayette” and college features a diamond in the middle, to convey class and quality.

Vassar College

Found in Poughkeepsie, New York, in the United States, Vassar College was created by Matthew Vassar, and became the second degree-granting college for higher education which accepted women in the United States.

Today, the college is a co-educational location, with a gender ratio similar to the standard national average.

Vassar College is one of the historical Seven Sisters Colleges, and it’s also closely connected to the Yale College.

Currently, the logo for this educational institution is a clean and elegant wordmark, featuring the word “Vassar” and nothing else. The letters, depicted in all capitals, are often presented in either the burgundy or grey official colors of the college.

Babson College

A private business school, found in Wellesley Massachusetts, Babson College is one of the younger examples of famous college logos on this list. The location, established in 1919, was built to focus on entrepreneurship and the development of new business owners.

Although originally an all-male facility, Babson became coeducational in 1970.

The modern Babson logo includes a serif wordmark in all capital letters, highlighting the sophisticated and professional nature of the group. The letter “B” is also depicted in a green circle, combined with the globe usually associated with a range of American college institutions.

Harvey Mudd College

When it comes to discussing the best college names and logos in the United States, Harvey Mudd College has one of the most modern images around.

Launched in 1955, only 67 years ago, Harvey Mudd College, or HMC is a private college in California, focused specifically on engineering and science. The location is part of the selection of Claremont Colleges, which share adjoining resources.

For its most recent logo, the Harvey Mudd College Group uses a square with curved corners, with the name of the institution depicted in a sans serif font.

This is one of the few American college logos which doesn’t use a serif wordmark. However, the letters of the college name are all in capitals.

Hunter College

Another example of one of the top American colleges with an eye-catching logo, Hunter College from New York is one of the constituent colleges of the City University for New York.

Hunter College was originally launched in 1870 as a college for women. Male freshmen were first admitted into the facility during 1946.

Often, the Hunter College logo only features the name of the facility in all capital sans-serif letters in the college’s iconic purple shading. However, sometimes, the soldier image associated with the historical institution is also placed within the Hunter wordmark.

Queens College

Sometimes referred to as “CUNY”, Queens College is a public educational institution in the Queens Borough of New York City.

Part of the City University for New York, the location has an 80-acre campus, and offers undergraduate degrees in over 70 majors. Queens College also supports graduate degree programs, master’s degrees, and doctoral degrees.

The Queens College logo is sophisticated and elegant, showcasing the name of the facility in a combination of both serif and sans-serif font. There’s also a stylized “Q” depicted in red and black with the wordmark.

The choice of red and black is interesting here, because the official colors of the college are blue and silver.

Celebrating American college logos

There are plenty of amazing examples of American college logos out there today. With dozens of colleges distributed all over the United States, you’re sure to find a number of fantastic depictions of what college logos might look like in America with just a little searching.

Many of the best college logos mentioned above share a number of similar components, including a wordmark (often depicted in sans serif font). Occasionally, we also see the presence of a shield, or an official university seal placed alongside the wordmark, giving the image more history and heritage.

If you’d like to learn more about some of the incredible logos and brand images which give American educational institutions their impact, make sure you check out other Logofile posts here on Fabrik’s website.

Fabrik: A branding agency for our times.

Stephen Peate
Creative director
Stephen Peate
Creative director
As Fabrik’s creative director, Stephen oversees complex branding programmes. He advises our clients on their tone of voice, creates logos and visual identities and crafts names for companies, products and services. Writing for Brand Fabrik Stephen reflects his love for logo design and visual identity.

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