OCAD U’s new logo an open canvas

Most colleges and universities tend to be pretty restrictive when it comes to usage or alteration of their logos. But Toronto’s OCAD University just unveiled a new look that invites students to play around with it.


The icons shown above are examples of how the new OCAD U logo can become what Fast Company describes as a “mini art gallery” for the school’s art and design students. Created by Bruce Mau Design, the new logo’s largest frame is an open canvas. While the mark provides a nod to one of OCAD U’s most prominent buildings, the Sharpe Center for Design, “its primary purpose,” writes Fast Company’s Suzanne LaBarre, “is to show off students’ creative toils.” The school plans to invite its top students each year to contribute something from their portfolio to transform that open frame into logos for the following year.

It’s a risky approach, and one that could drive brand identity police nuts. But in this era of social media, when so many of us talk about how we don’t “control” the brand, we’ve still been pretty strict about allowing much flexibility with our organizations’ visual identities. Maybe it’s time we brand managers relinquish some control of the visual brand, too. OCAD U is leading the way.

Congratulations to Steve Virtue, OCAD U’s director of marketing and communications, who has been shepherding the design process since the university first announced its partnership with Bruce Mau Design last September.

Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

4 thoughts on “OCAD U’s new logo an open canvas”

  1. Very cool idea! Like you said, I can see the brand managers going nuts over this. An awesome example of how to create a unique logo in social media. Allow for personalization surrounded by the standard brand. Allowing for stakeholders to make the logo their own is a great way for internalizing the brand which, in this case, is based around creativity. A risk, yes, as it has never been done before, but definitely worth a shot. Worth following up every once and awhile to see how it is going.

  2. Travis – I think OCAD U has the right idea by providing a “sandbox” if you will for students to use to play with the logo. Like you, I’ll be following up to see how well this concept succeeds.

  3. Thanks for sharing this fascinating example. This not only opens the door for showcasing their students’ work, but the logo concept itself is a living illustration of thinking outside the box (pun intended). It tells me that the school is courageous, bold, and rewards open creativity, so if these are their core brand values than this really hits the mark.

    An extra bonus: I could see how teaching design students to express creativity within the confines of brand identity standards can serve as an important practical lesson.

  4. This is a good idea. Stuff like this really invites the target audience (students in this case) to play an active role in your brand. I hope we see more of these types of crowd-source brand management experiments in the future; the results are almost always more exciting than whatever a professional graphic designer can come up with.

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