UC Riverside Highlanders Unveil New Academic, Athletic Identity

The University of California, Riverside, recently unveiled a new brand identity that unifies academics and athletics through updated logos and typography, as well as a simplified color scheme.

“We are quite pleased with our new look and proud of how it reflects the growing strength of our brand,” UC Riverside athletic director Tamica Jones said in a statement. “Our updated athletics visual identity system reflects a strong and distinctive presentation of our program while also conveying our overall expectation of driving us toward becoming a top-tier Division I program.” 

The Highlanders partnered with Joe Bosack & Co. — a Pennsylvania-based branding company whose past clients include Boise State, Georgia, James Madison, Mississippi State, North Carolina State, North Dakota State, UNLV and Xavier, as well as numerous professional teams, college conferences and the NCAA — to create the new visual identity. The year-long process involved student-athletes, coaches, donors and faculty members sharing their feedback in discovery sessions and concept presentations with the company.

“UC Riverside is a transformative place, but there are a lot of great things that are happening there that weren’t previously reflected in the overall brand,” Bosack told SportsLogos.net. “This whole idea of aspiration and achievements that they’ve been recognized for (was missing). Their athletic department also didn’t have a very sophisticated Division I look, so their ultimate goal was to develop a big-time collegiate look.”

The new primary logo retains the interlocking ‘UC,’ but adds an “R” to balance the monogram and further promote the school’s location.

“One of the things that was key in this project from the beginning was creating a common thread between the institution brand identity and the athletic brand identity,” Bosack said. “We wanted to do those in a linear fashion, one right after the other, to create some continuity and common thread between both. I find that the most effective way to develop brand identity in higher education. It’s only happened a few times in my career, but all of the times it has happened, it’s been very, very effective.”

“So then, the common thread between both of the identities is the general architecture and structure of the the type. The type plays such a strong role in the institutional identity, while it carries through to the athletic logo but is a little bit more muscular.”

Though they’re nicknamed the Highlanders, UC Riverside has used a bear as its mascot since then-press director Howard Cook had his friend create a logo of a bear wearing a kilt in 1954. It has taken on many different looks in the years since, with the most recent iteration wearing a tam o’ shanter on its head. That has now been replaced with a simplified bear inside of a shield that prominently displays tartan print.

“The old bear logo was very complicated in its architecture and how it’s built, how it’s drawn,” Bosack said. “It’s also complicated in its use of color. There were multiple blues in there, multiple golds, multiple browns. It was just really challenging to utilize in any application. It became very complicated.

“The new bear is simplified. I would consider to be part of our signature style, where it’s the maximum definition with the minimal amount of line. It incorporates the Highlanders in there with tartan, but not in a way that is cartoonish with the tam on the bear’s head.”

One of the most notable parts of the new brand identity is the inclusion of a new tertiary logo that blends the tartan print with the outline of California. 

“That’s a very important piece of this, too,” Bosack said. “There’s a romance to California and there’s a mystique to California. UC Riverside is part of this great California system of higher education. It’s a prestigious academic system.

“On the athletic side, California is also a great recruiting tool. It allows them to recruit nationwide and be very clear about who they are and where they’re from. If you are UC Riverside and you travel to Florida to talk to potential student-athletes, and you have that old logo on your coaches polo, that ‘UC’ could be anything. It could be from anywhere. But if you have a ‘UCR’ on your chest and shape of the state on the other side, it very clearly says where you’re from.”

One of the 10 campuses that comprise the University of California system, UC Riverside competes in the Big West Conference at the NCAA Division I level. Interestingly, every school within the system uses a blue and gold color scheme.

The Highlanders field 15 teams, including men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, cross country, golf, softball, soccer, tennis, track and field and women’s volleyball. The baseball and women’s volleyball teams are arguably their most successful programs, with each winning a pair of NCAA Division II national titles during the 1970s and 1980s.

Photos via the University of California, Riverside.