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visual language

Let’s get down to graphics

IU’s graphic elements are rooted in core brand marks such as the IU trident and seal. Graphic elements can be used to reinforce hierarchy, create connections and motion, and emphasize key messages.


Graphic elements in design

When combined with color, photography, and type, graphic elements can create powerful visual connections to the brand and reinforce the central ideas you’re trying to convey. Incorporating graphic elements can add visual interest and a sense of dynamism to your executions.

Graphic elements are not logos

Graphic elements are not meant to be used exclusively by departments or units. Instead, they are tools to enhance a range of messages, compositions, and campaigns.

Graphic building blocks

When using graphic elements, there are a few design principles that can help you add movement, create emphasis, or establish connections. Consider what you are trying to achieve and how each of these principles can aid in visualizing your message.


Create a visual path or flow, and bring energy to the piece.


Establish contrast in size, color, texture, shape, and more.


Build hierarchy and create balance.


Develop organized movement or visual tempo.


Create unity, patterns, and action.


Use juxtaposition and contrast of size, color, or shape.


Signed, sealed, delivered

The Indiana University seal is made up of a number of elements that can be further deconstructed, abstracted, or altered to create unique graphic elements that remain rooted in the IU brand.

  • Rays
  • Stripes
  • Book pattern
  • Triangles, stars, circles

Our trident: tried and true

The IU trident is also composed of elements that can be extracted, abstracted, or modified to create more unique graphic pieces that are true to our brand identity.

  • Plus
  • Brackets
  • Stripes
  • 45 degrees

Oh, the possibilities

Each brand element taken from the IU seal and the IU trident can be used as graphic elements. Feel free to combine, interpret, and manipulate the elements to develop unique and interesting compositions that maintain a strong thread with the IU brand.

Consider the following examples of graphic elements in use. There’s no end to the number of ways brand elements can be used within your designs.



Light is at the center of the IU brand. Light rays can take many forms as graphic elements. They can add emphasis to your message or draw out connections.


Book pattern

The book pattern, comprised of staggered rectangles, can take many forms, from typographic treatments to elements emphasizing the action or subject in photographs.


Triangles, circles, stars

Shapes can become versatile graphic elements by using the principles of design strategically. Create hierarchy or add variation and emphasis to any piece by using these elements in meaningful ways.



The plus graphic is versatile in both meaning and form. The plus can be used to show connection or intersection, or can be pulled apart to create a container.



Brackets can add emphasis and create a container for the information most important to your message.


45 degrees

The 45-degree notch can be used in a variety of ways from giving a silent nod to the brand, to acting as a dynamic element in your design. Create containers and frames using the notch, or create dynamic typography elements or image containers.



The iconic IU candy stripe is a powerful graphic that can be alluded to in many forms. Create strong lines horizontally, vertically, or even diagonally with type. Or, you could use them with an image.

Flex your graphics

Graphic elements are building blocks that can be simplified, repeated, or altered in small ways while still remaining connected to the brand. Be sure to consider what the graphic is trying to communicate in your piece.

This is an example of the book pattern element from the IU seal. This simple element has been flexed in many IU deliverables to help create hierarchy, emphasis, and texture. Consider what other elements can be expanded in your executions.

Single element

The most simplified, elemental form of a graphic can be used to reinforce hierarchy and create connections

Graphic element

Slightly more complex, and used in compositions to deliver emphasis and make connections

Graphic pattern

Full repetition of a graphic element that can be used to add texture

Explore our visual language further

Keep looking further into IU’s visual language.

  • See color in creations

    See how color is used across our range of expression, from functional to expressive.

  • Discover typography

    We can say a lot with our choice of type. Learn about our brand typography basics.

  • Learn about composition

    How we arrange the elements in our layouts makes all the difference. Discover more about composition.