Brand image is a massive part of modern 21st century business and college football is big business.
Signature uniforms like Michigan’s winged helmet, picturesque monuments like Lake Washington in Seattle or historic personalities like Bear Bryant help separate one team from the next in the college football 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 are Athlon Sports Art Director Matt Taliaferro favorite football logos — and a few he can't stand.
College Football's Best Official Logos
The best logo in college football, the Longhorn is classic, simple, unchanging but also unique and creative. There is nothing else to say.
There are tons of Tigers, Wildcats and Bulldogs in college sports but none use their mascot quite like Clemson. The Tiger Paw print is synonymous with Clemson athletics and is utterly simple but still edgy and creative.
Find me a more effective marriage of color and simplicity of design and I'll hand these writing duties over to you. Georgia's logo is so timeless that I can't remember there ever being another that represented the football team. You see this, there's no confusion as to what you're looking at. If that's not a successful logo, I don't know what it.
It is one of the most recognizable logos in college sports. There is some creativity in the "Y" font and the inverted color scheme works very well on helmets, merchandise and the like.
The interlocked N-C are as famous as any brand logo in the nation. There are simple touches of style — the font and black trim — that make this logo completely unmistakable.
As a logo, Tennessee's is as direct and to-the-point as it gets. Think what you will of the orange (personally, I'm no fan), but the unique working of the "T" is as good as it gets. As an aside, UT's retro Davy Crockett logo is badass.
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.
Simple, tasteful, unchanging and very obvious. This emblem with its signature gold trim is one of the best in the nation and leaves little doubt as to what it represents.
It's as simple as it gets but also brings loads of creativity and history. No other logo turns into a hand signal like "The U" and the two-tone color scheme and pattern is unique.
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.
The script "UCLA" is one of the most well-known logos in all of sports much less college football. And the way the word Bruins is incorporated makes it one of the most informative in the nation while still being fairly simple.
Michigan State and NC State know exactly what the smart kids from Palo Alto were thinking when this logo was created. It's classic and simple with a touch of style in the stroked white/red trim. Stanford boasts one of the best brand logos in the nation.
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.
The Buffs logo balances all of the key aspects to a company logo. It's simple and classic but with just enough style and flair while also being incredibly unique.
Hard to find fault in the interlocking A-U. Again, trimming away all the waste and boiling a logomark down to its most basic typically nets the best results.
All of Kansas State's design work, color scheme and uniforms are underrated and the logo is the same. Aggressive, stylish but yet still fairly simple and clean.
There is no doubting what the interlocking "O" and "U" stand for, right? The smooth lines and lack of extras in the font make this a fantastic logo.
Someone from A&M needs to call Texas Tech and explain how effective beveling is done. Like Vandy, Texas A&M's logo is simple and therefore works as a potent branding mark.
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.
Others receiving votes: West Virginia, Oregon, Notre Dame, Vanderbilt, UConn, Louisville, Iowa
College Football's Worst Official Logos*
OSU’s logo resembles some sort of odd flying wedge more than it does a beaver — although the inadvertent shark fin on the beaver’s head adds a touch of menace.
Was that wildcats drawn in with a Paper Mate? Working with purple already presents challenges and the overall design here isn’t helping.
It’s not the chicken, it’s the “C.” A tweak to the hard inner angles and this logo is no longer in the bottom 5.
There may be some tradition associated with the Looney Tunes magpie but the primary colors scheme and cartoon-ish nature date the logo.
Slow your bevel roll and quit stacking letters. That's my advice for the Red Raiders. Take a cue from instate rival Texas A&M about how to effectively bevel a logo.
* - Big 6, or "BCS," conferences only