UC Berkeley’s academic approach to logo redesign

Established in 1868, Berkeley is one of the major intellectual brands of the U.S., along with Harvard, Stanford, and MIT. Based in Berkeley, CA, this oldest campus of the University of California belongs to the world’s top five institutions of higher education, with almost 45,000 students. It is widely known as one of the best centers for training specialists in information technology, economics, law, and natural sciences.

Besides an official seal as its signature, Berkeley also uses a more comprehensive visual identity which recently received a fresh execution with the goal of uniting some units tightly connected with the university under a single brand. The redesign was carried out by Berkeley’s in-house design team in cooperation with the New York-based Additive Agency.

According to an official press release, the rebranding process took two years to refine and standardize all the elements of the identity, which involved the academic staff, students, employees, and alumni.

The fact that there are a number of unofficial names referring to the university has frequently led to misunderstandings. Many people sometimes do not know that “UC Berkeley” and “Cal” actually mean the same institution. Preceded by research and surveys, the new branding therefore aims to bring greater clarity.

“Cal,” for example, as an abbreviation of “California,” is used as Berkeley’s sports brand. For many in the U.S., it is associated with pride and passion, as Cal athletes regularly win medals at domestic and international competitions, including the Olympic Games. In addition, “Cal” is a kind of a home name used mostly by students and alumni.

Against this background, the main logo representing a pure wordmark “Berkeley” was remarkably redesigned, while the branding also features “Cal” as a sort of a secondary emblem. Both logos thus underpin the new identity of the university and are, in a way, interconnected with each other, albeit designed in different typefaces.

Although advanced to the forefront of Berkeley’s visual identity, the Cal logo has remained unchanged, which should emphasize that the university honors its traditions and history. At the same time, the Berkeley logo’s serif aesthetic was adjusted with bolder letters and wider spaces between them, optimized for digital use. As the institution says, the new design moves it aesthetically closer to “Cal.”

In fact, “Berkeley” is designed in the Berkeley Old Style font which, in turn, is based on the University of California Old Style, a typeface created by the famous type designer Frederic William Goudy in 1938 for UC’s publishing house. While continuing Berkeley’s typographic tradition, the new iteration essentially demonstrates more balanced letterforms with less contrast between the thinner and thicker strokes, making the logo more readable and suited to use on the web. Additionally, the university has adopted Source Serif and Inter, two open-source typefaces, available on Google Fonts.


Another noticeable part of the updated identity is a color palette that also acts as an umbrella asset for Berkeley’s academics and athletics. Berkeley Blue, as the primary color, was somewhat brightened to catch up the depth of California Gold, the secondary hue. The gamma is also diluted by some other bright and light shades.

As Berkeley is still a long-standing and respected institution, it would, of course, be reasonable to expect a thoughtful and careful redesign, which was actually done. The designers were able to establish a proper balance between tradition and innovation, skillfully adapting the brand for modern life.

Join the Newsletter to get our latest content by email.