Color

Primary | Secondary | Tertiary | Accessibility

USC’s official colors are USC Cardinal and USC Gold. Each color is equal in importance in identifying the university. The official brand colors are a powerful and essential brand element that create a consistent identity across all communications and applications. They are not an arbitrary choice. Because these colors communicate identity they are protected by trademark law.  


Usage

USC Cardinal and USC Gold use specific PMS, CMYK, RGB and HEX formulas to create consistent colors across all channels and media. Primary importance is also given to good contrast for legibility and accessibility. The following are important things to note when working with the university colors:

  • For print projects: Use PMS or CMYK
  • Special Note for Print: When printing in either CMYK or PMS on coated or uncoated paper, all colors must match to the PMS 201C (coated) and PMS 123C (coated) Pantone color formulation.
  • For digital and web projects: Use RGB and HEX
  • Secondary and tertiary colors should not replace the two primary colors. Instead, they are meant to be used with the two primary colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold. 
  • Tertiary colors should be restricted to use in graphic elements and accent colors, not type.
  • Follow the guidelines and specifications in this section to correctly apply this important
    brand element.
  • Work with USC Trademarks and Licensing to use an approved and licensed USC vendor to ensure you are following brand guidelines.

The Color Palette

The primary colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold, are supplemented by a secondary and tertiary color palette. The secondary palette provides additional flexibility while the tertiary palette should be restricted in use to graphic elements or accent colors. Tertiary colors should not be used for text.


Primary Brand Colors

The official colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold, are of equal importance as a brand element.

 

USC Cardinal

  • PMS 201 C
  • C 7 | M 100 | Y 65 | K 32
  • R 153 | G 27 | B 30
  • HEX #990000
 

USC Gold

  • PMS 123 C
  • C 0 | M 27 | Y 100 | K 0
  • R 255 | G 204 | B 0
  • HEX #FFCC00

Secondary Colors

Black and white have an important place in USC branding. Black has long been used in tandem with USC Cardinal and USC Gold but should not be used as a replacement for either color. The use of white to create ‘white space’ is meant to create an environment that is more open and accessible. To ensure that tints of black meet ADA compliance guidelines we use only two tints; 30k for use on black and 70k for use on white.

 

Black (100k)

  • C 0 | M 0 | Y 0 | K 100
  • R 0 | G 0 | B 0
  • HEX #000000
 

White

  • C 0 | M 0 | Y 0 | K 0
  • R 255 | G 255 | B 255
  • HEX #FFFFFF

Black (30k)

  • C 0 | M 0 | Y 0 | K 30
  • R 204 | G 204 | B 204
  • HEX #CCCCCC

Black (70k)

  • C 0 | M 0 | Y 0 | K 70
  • R 118 | G 118 | B 118
  • HEX #767676

Rich Black (40c, 100k)

If you are printing a large panel of black and want to create a richer color, add 40c to the black.


Tertiary Colors

Tertiary colors add flexibility and are meant to be used with the two primary colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold. Tertiary colors should be restricted to use in graphic elements and accent colors.

 
  • PMS 474 C
  • C 3 | M 24 | Y 33 | K 0
  • R 242 | G 198 | B 167
  • HEX #F2C6A7
 
  • PMS 709 C
  • C 0 | M 77 | Y 37 | K 0
  • R 242 | G 97 | B 120
  • HEX #F26178
 
  • PMS 7685 C
  • C 92 | M 73 | Y 11 | K 1
  • R 43 | G 85 | B 151
  • HEX #2B5597
 
  • PMS 582 C
  • C 46 | M 33 | Y 100 | K 9
  • R 144 | G 140 | B 19
  • HEX #908C13
 
  • PMS 107 C
  • C 3 | M 7 | Y 95 | K 0
  • R 253 | G 224 | B 33
  • HEX #FDE021
 
  • PMS 380 C
  • C 18 | M 0 | Y 87 | K 0
  • R 218 | G 227 | B 67
  • HEX #DAE343
 
  • PMS 1495 C
  • C 0 | M 54 | Y 95 | K 0
  • R 255 | G 144 | B 21
  • HEX #FF9015
 
  • PMS 179 C
  • C 4 | M 91 | Y 91 | K 0
  • R 228 | G 61 | B 48
  • HEX #E43D30

Tints and Shades

Secondary colors add flexibility and are meant to be used with the two primary colors, USC Cardinal and USC Gold. They should not replace the two primary colors.

Tints

PMS 123 C
(USC Gold)

75%

50%

25%

PMS 201 C
(USC Cardinal)

Tints for PMS 201 C (USC Cardinal) are not permitted.


Shades

PMS 201 C
(USC Cardinal)

+10% K

+20% K

+30% K

PMS 123 C
(USC Gold)

Shades for PMS 123 C (USC Gold) are not permitted.


Gradients

Gradients demonstrate the gradual blending from one color to another and can be used to add depth to backgrounds and graphic elements like icons. When placing type over gradients, make sure the contrast ratio between the two meets accessibility standards.

The following are two examples to show the type of gradients you can create.

  • PMS 201 C
  • C 7 | M 100 | Y 65 | K 32
  • R 153 | G 27 | B 30
  • HEX #990000
  • PMS 123 C
  • C 0 | M 27 | Y 100 | K 0
  • R 255 | G 204 | B 0
  • HEX #FFCC00
  • PMS 179 C
  • C 4 | M 91 | Y 91 | K 0
  • R 228 | G 61 | B 48
  • HEX #E43D30
  • PMS 107 C
  • C 3 | M 7 | Y 95 | K 0
  • R 253 | G 224 | B 33
  • HEX #FDE021

The following are two examples to show the type of gradients you should not create.

HEX #FFCC00

HEX #2B5597

HEX #E43D30

HEX #908C13


Accessibility

Color contrast is very important to legibility. Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) is the benchmark for accessibility. It was developed by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) whose goal is to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility.

WCAG requires contrast ratios of at least:

  • 4.5:1 for normal text and 3:1 for large text to achieve Level AA (mid range) compliance.
  • 7:1 for normal text and 4.5:1 for large text to reach Level AAA (highest) compliance.
  • Large text is defined as 14 point (typically 18.66px) and bold or larger, or 18 point
    (typically 24px) or larger.

The following are examples of color contrast to demonstrate compliance.

To meet current accessibility standards, use only approved color combinations. For websites and other online uses, WebAim Color Contrast Checker is a good tool to measure contrast. For printed materials, the standards are not as easy to measure. Be sure to take special care with reverse type and type overlays.