Skip to Main Content

WashU History FAQ

Frequently asked questions about the history of Washington University in St. Louis (Missouri, USA). Pages maintained by University Archives.

Current Logo

As of September 2000, a new logotype identifies Washington University in St. Louis.

The new logotype was developed by an advisory committee headed by Mary Ellen Benson, Assistant Vice Chancellor and Executive Director of Publications in the Office of Public Affairs. The new design updates the former logotype, developed in the mid-1980s, to make it suitable for digital publishing and the World Wide Web. The principal change in the new version is the elimination of the second use of the word "Washington". The logotype now appears with the words "Washington University in St. Louis".

A universal design has been adopted for letterhead, envelopes, business cards, and memo forms. In addition, new logotypes have been designed for the University's eight schools, and more choices have been provided for uses such as brochures, viewbooks, signs, T-shirts, and coffee mugs.

The new designs were presented to the Board of Trustees in May of 2000. Work to phase in their use began in June, and in August, a new set of logotype usage guidelines was mailed to all campus offices.

Approved versions of the University's logotype have been registered as trademarks. Guidelines for the proper use of the University's logotype can be found in the current version of the Logotype Usage Guidelines, available from the Office of Public Affairs.

For more information on the new logotype, see the September 1, 2000 issue of the Washington University Record or the Office of Public Affairs, Brand Management.

Former Logotype

In the early 1980s, a Review Committee for Institutional Identity was formed for the purpose of developing a University-wide logotype to replace the plethora of seals and logos used by various departments and units of the University. The Committee completed its work in 1985 and its recommendations were approved by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1986. The logotype adopted in the 1980s consisted of the following elements:

  • A shield, two bars, and three stars. These elements are borrowed from the coat of arms of President George Washington, after whom the University is named.
  • Three fleur-de-lis: the symbol of King Louis IX of France, after whom the city of St. Louis is named.
  • The words "Washington University in St. Louis". First added to the University's logotype (then a representation of the Gateway Arch with an open book and the W.U. motto) in 1976,in order to better identify the University in the national media.
  • The word "Washington" by itself -- Added in 1985, as a way to simplify the University's name to no more than three syllables. With the re-design of the University's logotype in 2000, this element was eliminated.

Former Logo




School Colors

The University's official colors, adopted in the mid 1890s, are red and green. An often repeated, but inaccurate, campus myth says that the University's colors are "myrtle and maroon". This confusion has existed at least since the 1890s, when a University songbook included a tune entitled "Myrtle and Maroon", which contained this stanza:

Let us always hold together,
If the end comes late or soon.
For the love we bore in common
To the Myrtle and Maroon.

In 1916, Chancellor Frederic Aldin Hall formed a University Art Committee, chaired by Holmes Smith, Professor of Art, to look into the matter. The committee reported to Hall that the school colors "were adopted by the Alumni Association around the year 1890. So far as the Committee could discover the colors were "a rich red and green."

The Committee's report added that while the song "Myrtle and Maroon" was no longer being sung by the University community, "the title of it appears to have had a most unfortunate effect upon the colors of the University, which have gradually changed from a combination as first adopted to very dull and dark colors known as myrtle and maroon." Myrtle and maroon were used in athletic uniforms and academic regalia as recently as the early 1970s.

The Review Committee for Institutional Identity in the 1980s also established the official shades of red and green which were to be used on athletic uniforms, academic regalia, business cards, letterhead, and publications, and published a detailed set of logotype and letterhead guidelines which set forth policies concerning the use of the University's institutional identity symbols.

With the introduction of a new logotype in the summer of 2000, the guidelines have been updated. The updated guidelines are available from the Office of Public Affairs, Brand Management.