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College Football 2013: Ranking the Big Ten's Logos

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Brand image is a massive part of modern 21st century business and college footballis big business.

Signature uniforms like Michigan’s winged helmet, picturesque monuments like The Horseshow in Columbus or historic personalities like Barry Alvarez help separate one team from the next in the Big Ten with clarity. Fans identify with these brand images and it helps build value — or brand equity — for every program in the nation.

However, official school logos have been and will always be the simplest and most important way for a college program to classify and separate itself from its peers. Some change dramatically over time while others are literally set in stone for decades. Some are edgy, exciting and extremely busy while others are clean, classic and simple. 

Every college football program in the nation has an official logo — and some are better than others — and the goal is to be the most recognizable brand in the nation.

And since Athlon Sports has been designing the best looking magazines on newstands for the better part of half a century, we'd thought we'd turn our graphic design guru loose on college football's logos. Here is what Athlon Sports Art Director Matt Taliaferro has to say about the Big Ten's football logos:

"When it comes to clean, classy and delivering a no-frills branding blow, the Big Ten leaves all other conferences in a Woody Hayes-style cloud of dust. You won’t find any cartoonish gunslingers (looking at you, New Mexico State) or streamlined, over-Illustrator’d beavers (guilty as charged, Oregon State) — and that’s the way it should be for a conference whose institutions are embedded in the Heartland.

"The mark of a great logo is that it stands the test of time; and let’s be honest, you won’t catch Michigan re-tooling the block ‘M’ any time soon because its appearance is timeless. Such is the case with the majority of the Big Ten schools’ logos, where simple yet effective typography reigns and even those who veer into the graphics realm have effectively cut away the fat (although you’re treading on thin ice, Northwestern). Even Purdue’s contemporary “slanted P” fits dexterously with the more traditional “straight block” M’s, N’s, I‘s and U’s.

"The SEC may rule the gridiron and the ACC can hoop, but when it comes to traditional school logos, the Big Ten is the gold standard."

Big Ten Official Football Logo Rankings






Michigan State

It's clean, classic, gets the point across and is recognizable. It has some fierce edginess to it, the color scheme is perfect and there is no doubt it represents a Spartan.


Penn State

Historically speaking, few logos are as traditional as the Nittany Lions oval. The smooth looking Lions head has great lines and appears to be hunting... Wolverines or Buckeyes? Few logos combine classy and aggresive like PSU.



Again, simple and straight forward gets the point across. The colors and subtle trim are great and it appears that the Huskers have a monopoly on this letter. There is no doubting what this logo refers to.



It doesn't get any more simple that the block "M" of Michigan. The font is excellent but it could use some blue trim or accents.



It also comes in yellow but the black is more stylish. While maintaining a simple and historic look, the Hawkeye emblen also brings some creativity. In fact, I've no idea what an actual Hawkeye looks like.


Ohio State

Normally, a name in a logo doesn't work, but the "S" is perfectly designed into the "O" and it works. It makes it busier than the cleaner, more classic logos above. The colors and trim are second to none.



There is much more style to this "M" as compared to Michigan's but it's also busier. The seraphs are cool and the trim is solid. An underrated logo.



The historic brand of Hoosiers athletics is well known. The intersecting, symmetrical "IU" is simple and clean with the added touch of block seraphs.



The black and gold logo is the only one in the league that appears to be italicized. The overall wide shape of the letter gives it some style as well.



Let's face it, the floating "W" isn't the best Wisconsin logo but it is synonymous with the only successful era of Badgers football. The drop shadow is cool but only adds to the cartoonish feel.



The "I" by itself is nice and the "Illinois" can stand alone — and both look good that way. Together, it seems forced and MAC-ish.



The purple "N" has plenty of things going on around it. Not only is the font bizarre but the Nickelodeon wildcat characture isn't intimidating anyone.

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