University of Southern California

USC Identity Guidelines

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do I need to follow brand guidelines?

The University of Southern California is a single institution, a trademark that stands for quality in higher education, research, health care, and a variety of other programs and activities. Given this diversity, it is necessary to establish a set of guidelines that position the university’s identity under one unified set of standards.


May I create an official USC monogram or an official wordmark by typing University of Southern California or a USC academic unit’s name in Adobe Caslon Pro?

No. The approved USC monogram and wordmark as well as USC academic unit wordmarks have been carefully and uniquely designed by identity specialists and thus must be accessed by downloading the graphics files. You may seek the advice and assistance of a graphic designer to use these files properly.


May I create my own custom icon, wordmark or logotype for an academic unit, department, program, institute, center or office?

No. To maintain consistency throughout the system, the program prohibits the use of any additional iconography, marks, artwork, wordmarks or logotypes outside of the approved logotypes, wordmarks, university seal, shield, and Trojan Head (the latter may only be used for spirit-related applications). Existing iconography can be used as illustrative elements.


Does USC allow co-branding and can the USC logo be locked-up with any other logos or graphics?

The guidelines of the USC graphic identity system do not permit co-branded logo lock-ups. When using the USC logo near another logo or graphic, the area of isolation, or minimum required clear space surrounding the mark, should be half the logotype’s height on all sides. Do not allow any other graphic elements to impede this area of isolation. Please email identity@usc.edu if you have any questions about logo usage or co-branding guidelines.


Are the approved university typefaces (Adobe Caslon Pro and National) available for free?

Unfortunately, licensing restrictions prevent us from distributing the typefaces for free. Most schools have a license for each of the fonts. Reach out to your unit’s brand ambassador to see if that is the case. You may also visit identity.usc.edu/print/typefaces for information on purchasing licenses of Adobe Caslon Pro and National.


May I use the seal instead of the shield?

No, the seal and the shield are not interchangeable. The shield is the primary academic mark and should be used in most applications. The seal is only for formal applications such as gala invitations and legally sanctioned or official documents such as diplomas and certificates of merit.


May I use the shield element by itself?

Yes, in limited applications, the shield may be used as a graphic element. However, it should never be used as the only representation of the university. Use it conjunction with the wordmark or monogram logotypes.
The shield should always be isolated from academic unit logotypes.


Can I use the shield with my academic unit logotype?

You may only use the shield as a secondary element in your designs. It must never be paired directly with an academic unit logotype. If you wish to use it on your design, make sure to observe the rule of clear space.


When using an academic unit logotype, do I also have to use one of the university logotypes?

Whenever possible, it is recommended that the primary university logotype be used in conjunction with the academic unit logotype. This helps to further establish the brand identity, as the primary university logotype is the umbrella under which all other university logotypes exist.

In applications in which space is limited, it is recommended that the primary university monogram or the words “University of Southern California” typeset in Adobe Caslon or National be used to help reinforce the connection between the academic unit and the overall university identity.


My academic unit is celebrating an anniversary. May we create a custom logo in honor of this milestone?

USC’s graphic identity program provides guidelines for anniversary logos. Please contact USC University Communications at identity@usc.edu for more information and to request approval for an anniversary mark.

If the request meets all criteria for approval, an identity-compliant logo will be created and provided by USC University Communications within 14 business days.


My unit would like a logotype using an acronym that condenses the official name for our group. Is this permissible?

USC does not permit acronyms or the use of “&” in logotypes and requires units to use full, official and/or chartered names. In accordance with the university’s editorial style, acronyms may only be used within messaging, narrative and boilerplate text. For example, the following is allowed: “the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab (AnnLab) is a curious, creative and committed think tank helping media and technology work for humans.” But an official logotype would include the full name of the unit.


Where can I get approved artwork to be in compliance with the USC Graphic Identity Program?

You can download the approved artwork and assets by visiting usc.edu/identity.


Where can I get approved artwork to be in compliance with the USC Dornsife Graphic Identity Program?

Visit dornsife.usc.edu/identity for more information on obtaining USC Dornsife logotypes, including those for departments, programs, institutes, centers and offices, as well as electronic letterhead.


Who owns the copyright to USC artwork?

The University of Southern California is the copyright owner by origination or assignment of any representation of a USC mark. Please contact USC Trademarks and Licensing if you have further questions about ownership of copyrights.


How do I order letterhead, envelopes and business cards?

The university’s approved stationery vendor has all of the approved graphic assets for the USC Graphic Identity Program, including those for USC Dornsife and all USC academic units. For more information about ordering stationery, visit: identity.usc.edu/stationery.


A vendor I work with or have contracted would like to use the USC logo on their website. Is this permissible?

USC policy prohibits external entities, including university vendors, from using the university logo(s) on their company websites or other promotional materials. As an alternative, USC permits “University of Southern California” to be used in plain text as part of a client list. Please contact USC Trademarks and Licensing if you have further questions about logo usage on an external website.

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