Oxford is one of the oldest academic institutions in the world. And the cornerstone of Oxford University’s visual identity is its logo. The coat of arms logo is used in formal and ceremonial contexts, for example for degrees and official documents, and competitions. The University of Oxford’s logo is very easy to recognize and identify. It shows an open book with seven seals, and three crowns (two on top, one below the book). It’s believed to have been adopted in 1400, and the choice of decorative elements is full of significance. So let’s explore some fun facts about the University of Oxford’s logo and see how it changed over time.
The Oxford University Logo Design - What Does the Oxford Logo Mean?
The University’s brand has several key elements that combine to create a unique identity. The Oxford University logo is the cornerstone of the university’s visual identity. The logo features the quadrangle and the name of the university together with a belted crest device. There are a few variations to this logo. The first a primary quadrangle logo that consists of a blue background square with the words “UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD” at the foot and the belted crest on the top right corner. The secondary version is a rectangle, with the crest on the left side. The logo is normally placed on printed and digital materials on the top right corner, although other positions are allowed.
5 Fun Facts About the Oxford University Logo
There are some things you might not know or have noticed about the logo. Let’s go through some of the most interesting facts.
1. The motto "Dominus Illuminatio Mea" has been in use since the 16th century
The motto of the University of Oxford is “Dominus illuminatio mea” or “The Lord is my light”. This motto is the incipit (or opening words) of Psalm 27: “The LORD is my light and my salvation— whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life— of whom shall I be afraid?”
The motto, which appears in the coat of arms of the university, has been in use since the sixteenth century. People believed then that the world rested on God’s hands – that it was contingent on him. Everything derived from his continuous creative act, every instant. Because things are in constant codependence, they radiate and are alight by the God-derived luminescence of their truth.
The same motto is used also by the Robert College in Istanbul and Finlandia University.
2. You can only use the Oxford University logo in very specific ways
If you are a designer or you are requested to use the logo of the University of Oxford, there are strict guidelines you will need to follow. For example, there is an invisible exclusion zone where you can’t have any graphic materials other than the background colour. This is to ensure the logo always remains free from interference and is easy to see.
The exclusion zone is 0.3x, where x is the height of the logo (in both the quadrangle and rectangular versions). You should also not place the logo in the middle of your materials.
3. The University of Oxford logo has changed over time
The logo as we know it today consists of:
- An open book with the inscription “Dominus Illiminatio Mea“
- Seven seals on the dexter side of the book
- Three golden crowns (two above and one below the book)
The university’s coat of arms has existed since the year 1400. Its appearance, however, has changed over time. For example, there wasn’t always the same number of seals on the side of the book, and the registered trademark as recorded in 1993 showed a cartouche with the inscription “UNIVERSITY OF OXFORD“. The Inscriptions had changed before too, several times: sometimes it was Sapientia & Felicitate (Wisdom and Happiness) Veritas liberat, bonitas regnabit (Truth frees us, Godliness crowneth us) and In principio (In the beginning).
4. The University of Oxford has its own blue
The university is associated with a particular and globally recognizable colour: Oxford Blue, or Pantone 282. This is the official colour reference for the brand.
The only other colour allowed to represent the university is black. No exceptions! In addition to the logo and the Oxford Blue colour, the university uses the typeface Foundry Sterling for all professional communications. This allows all materials to be clear and consistent.
In case you want to use this colour yourself:
5. The book in the logo might be linked to the Apocalypse
Yes, you read that right. The book shown in the University of Oxford’s logo could signify the one mentioned in the apocalypse, which has seven seals. This is what John Guillim stated in his Display of Heraldrie (1610). Here, however, the seals are supposed to represent the seven Liberal Sciences, and the crown the reward in honour of learning and wisdom. There are three, because of the three Cardinal Professions, or Faculties.