To help manage a visual identity system strategically, institutions of higher education often call upon a brand architecture model. This model provides a brand hierarchy, starting with the top-level brand for the institution as a whole, then addressing other entities, from projects and initiatives to support offices and affiliated organizations.

Core Brand

The core brand is the top tier of the brand hierarchy, and it represents the institution as a whole. The visual identity for the core brand is the institutional logo, and it should be used on any projects that encompass the full university, such as institutional websites, television spots, annual reports, or strategic plans.

Brand Extension

A core brand extension is an overarching entity that advances the overall mission and aligns closely with the core brand. At University of Wisconsin System (UW System), a core brand extension may involve one or more of the following:UW Vets logo

  • High degree of collaboration with external stakeholders outside of UW System Administration.
  • Broader audience likely to include other UW System institutions and multiple external stakeholders (such as the public, community and business leaders, the media, state lawmakers, a national or
    international audience).
  • Project, office, or initiative that may be limited in duration, or ongoing.
  • Budget that exists for creating a professional graphic identity.
  • Priorities that include a distinct identity, more flexibility in design and layout, all while maintaining a somewhat close affiliation with the UW System brand.

Secondary Brand Extension

A secondary brand extension is a UW System administrative office, support unit, or academic department that supports the overall mission of UW System, and has:UW posters in the rotunda logo

  • Some level of collaboration with external stakeholders outside of UW System Administration.
  • Moderately broad audience that may include other UW System institutions or external groups.
  • Project, office, or initiative that may be ongoing.
  • A distinct identity, but a closer affiliation with the UW System brand, than Brand Extensions.


A sub-brand is an entity, such as one of our offices or departments. It is linked to the UW System core brand for strategic and economic reasons. Its visual identity incorporates key elements of the UW Office of Human Resources logocore brand (such as the UW System mark, or the logo typeface or colors), but does so in a way that establishes a more independent visual identity.

  • Close degree of affiliation to UW System Administration.
  • Audience is predominantly internal (UWSA or UW System staff).
  • Project, office, or initiative is ongoing.
  • Minimum distinct graphic design elements are needed.

Independent Brand

An independent brand is an entity that presents its connection to the UW System brand in an understated manner for a variety of reasons. For example, an entity may exist through an equal partnership among multiple stakeholders. The entity may rely upon an external funding source that must be prominently acknowledged. Or an entity’s mission may differ significantly from UW System’s core missions. The Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) is an example of an independent brand.