To help strategically manage a visual and brand identity system, institutions of higher education often use something called a brand architecture model. This model provides a brand hierarchy, which includes:

  • The top-level or “core” brand for the institution as a whole
  • The sub-brand, which addresses other entities, from projects and initiatives to support offices and affiliated organizations
  • Endorsed or sponsoring brands, which can include brand hybrids and modifiers

UW System Core Brand

The core brand is the top tier of the brand hierarchy and represents all our institutions as a whole. The visual identity for the core brand is the UW System logo (or mark), color pallet, fonts and graphic elements.

UW System Administration is the UW System

While our role is administration, we are the UW System and symbolize the value of core brand to our campuses and to the state of Wisconsin. Any part of UW System Administration should use the core brand’s identity when communicating with campuses and to the public. When the core brand is used:

  • Unit (project, office, department or initiative) is organizationally part of UW System Administration
  • Primary source of funding comes from UW System Administration
  • Audience can be internal to UWSA, systemwide, or external
  • Association will benefit the core mission of UW System


UW System strives to be a branded house. With the exception of our campuses, sub-brands should be used sparingly and have a defined marketing purpose for adopting an additional identity. All sub-brands must maintain elements of the core brand and be reviewed and approved by the UW System’s Office of Public Affairs & Communications.

Some examples of when to use a sub-brand:

  • Audience is most likely to be internal to UWSA or systemwide
  • May also be a product or event produced by UWSA
  • Customers are already involved with UW System in some way (enrolled, employed)
  • Has a common value to the core brand
  • Supports brand equity
  • Funded in part by UW System

Endorsed/Sponsoring Brands, Hybrid, and Brand Modifiers

A hybrid or modified brand can develop in specialized circumstances and may occur within separate and distinct arms of the organization. These modified brands have a very clear purpose that would benefit both the UW System and the entity to show distinction with its brand.

Brand modifiers can be very confusing both internally and externally and should only be used when all stakeholders are aligned, very specific parameters are met, and UW System communications leadership has reviewed and approved the modifier(s). Situations where brand modifiers are used have:

  • A very clear and specific purpose and audience
  • Multiple funding sources
  • Multiple campuses and/or have external stakeholders
  • A budget for creating a professional graphic identity and marketing strategy
  • Goals abstractly related to UW System’s value and mission

Where does my project fit?

This page is intended as an overview of UW System brand architecture. All branding that extends beyond the core brand requires working with the Office of Communications and Public Relations. For inquiries, please fill out our communications request form.

Communications Request