A Manual for Graphic Identity Standards

National Sea Grant College Program Network

A strong graphic identity program indicates a well-organized, focused, and effective organization. It suggests quality and strength. The National Sea Grant College Program graphic identity reflects these qualities which have enabled it to become an international leader in research, extension, and education activities involving coastal, marine, and Great Lakes issues.

To the majority of the American public, a program identity is the primary vehicle through which an organization becomes known to a great many people. A unifying identity is critical to an organization's ability to compete for public attention.

The need to present a unified visual image to the world is a basic tenet of corporations, government agencies, and nonprofit organizations alike. Think of Ford, IBM, Mercedes, Kellogg, Apple, FedEx, NBC, K-Mart, UPS—presentation of corporate image via relentless, consistent use of a logo is a fundamental and essential part of gaining and maintaining public recognition.

The need for a unifying graphic image is especially critical for organizations such as Sea Grant, which have many diverse components. The graphically uncoordinated proliferation of logos on news release letterhead, fact sheets, Web pages, and other visual public representations give a jumbled, unfocused appearance—and more likely, do not convey any impression at all that there is an institutional relationship among our otherwise related components. A shared graphic identity effectively communicates the character of Sea Grant as a multifaceted but unified program.

In the flood of communication messages that bombard the public every day, Sea Grant should project an image that is clear, consistent, easily recognized and remembered, and reflective of the high quality of its program components. To diverge in any way from the established specifications of the graphic identity undermines the intent to present the Sea Grant program to the world as a unified, first-class operation.

The following standards will help those associated with Sea Grant understand the most effective way to use the Sea Grant graphic identity.

History of a Cooperative Effort

logo example

The national graphic identity was developed by Sea Grant communicators for the benefit of the network, and endorsed by the Sea Grant directors in 1994. No dictate exists that requires its use, but within several years of its debut, all Sea Grant entities had adopted it, incorporating their program (or program component) name directly below the "Sea Grant," as shown in the sample to the right. Using this logo according to specifications provided in this manual enhances Sea Grant's recognition on both the national and state levels, and the state programs and the national network receive reciprocal benefits in terms of greater identity and recognition among their publics.

The prototype Sea Grant graphic was designed in 1993 in response to a request by former National Sea Grant Office communication program leader, Victor Omelczenko, for use in the banner of two National Sea Grant Office (NSGO) newsletters—Sea Grant Challenges and Sea Grant Results. Susan Gibson (neé Burroughs) at Alaska Sea Grant designed the banners from a concept sketched by Alaska's Kurt Byers, who incorporated the NOAA seabird over a logotype to establish a brand connection between Sea Grant and NOAA.

Soon after the NSGO began using the Gibson design, the network communication leaders met (representing 16 programs), under the leadership of Steve Wittman of Wisconsin Sea Grant, in Topsail, North Carolina, in October 1993. The purpose was to craft the first-ever Strategic National Sea Grant Communications Plan. At the time, each state, national, and territorial Sea Grant program used a different logo. Recognizing the need for a common national graphic identity as an essential component of a sound strategic communications plan, and favorably impressed by the recently created NSGO newsletter banner, the communicators agreed to renew a dormant effort to create a logo for Sea Grant. The resulting strategic plan included the objective, "Develop a national graphic identity that will increase Sea Grant's recognition among its publics."

To pursue that and other national visibility objectives, Wittman appointed a six-person (later, nine-person) National Identity Task Force at Topsail, chaired by then-communication manager of South Carolina Sea Grant, Leigh Handel. She quickly became known as the Logo Queen while writing the network's original graphic identity standards, which remain mostly unchanged here.

In 1994, Gibson's design was selected by the network communication leaders from several designs submitted by Sea Grant programs in a network-wide logo design competition, administered by Handel. Before the winning logo received official endorsement by the Sea Grant Communications Steering Committee in late 1994, it was provided to and used by Sea Grant's newly established, now defunct, National Media Relations office.

Indicative of the long-standing challenge communicators faced in arriving at an acceptable logo design in the years preceding the pivotal Topsail meeting, the strategic communication plan included this commentary: "We recognize that unanimity among either the communications network or the directors will never be achieved, but we feel that even with a dissenting minority, it is important for Sea Grant's future that we put forth a unified national identity for the network that still allows for state program identification."

The logo and graphic identity standards were officially accepted and endorsed by all of the Sea Grant communication leaders at their biennial retreat in Provo, Utah, in October 1994. The logo was endorsed by the Council of Sea Grant Directors (now called the Sea Grant Association) in December 1994. Gradually over the following five or six years, the now ubiquitous "NOAA bird" logo was adopted by all Sea Grant entities.

Basic Standards

This Web page is designed to provide users of the Sea Grant logo with an easy reference guide to its effective use. Using this guide can help Sea Grant present a consistent program identity to its internal (such as researchers or advisory committees) audiences, as well as external (Congress, state legislators, coastal users and managers) audiences.

The graphic identity serves many purposes. By adapting the bottom line of the logo to the appropriate state, regional, or component name, the logo can identify any and all parts of the National Sea Grant College Program. These standards should be strictly adhered to for maximum benefit and effectiveness of the national identity program.

bad logo bad logo 2

Identity Colors

The Sea Grant logo will be used by many different entities within the Sea Grant network. Many state programs are located on university campuses, and therefore seek to identify with their school colors.

Therefore, it is acceptable to determine color on a case-by-case basis. You are encouraged to select strong colors that are reflective of Sea Grant's scientific and technology transfer mission. Do not use the reversed logo against a weak, low-contrast or highly screened background; it will not stand out.


Program Image: The way in which Sea Grant is perceived by its publics, both internally and externally.

Identity Program: The system of visual communications graphically coordinated in such a way that the public easily identifies Sea Grant, its components, and activities.

Graphic Identity: The graphic device or mark (logo) that distinguishes Sea Grant, including national state and regional programs, their activities and products. It should promote immediate identification by the public.

Logotype: The words or names identifying the National Sea Grant College Program, state program names, regional program names, or other component names.

Master Artwork: High-quality, camera-ready art that will produce printing results worthy of Sea Grant's reputation and commitment to excellence.


Corporate Identity Guide. Colonial Companies. 1990. 20 pp.

Graphic Identity: A Brief Manual. University of New Hampshire, Office of University Publications. 1994. 12 pp.

Graphics Standards Manual and Collegiate Licensing Program. Texas A&M University. 28 pp.

A Guide to University Stationery. University of Washington. 6 pp.

Identity Communications Manual. University of South California. 1992. 16 pp.

Logo Guidelines. Louisiana State University. 1991. 12 pp.

Operating Manual: Communication and Publication Procedures. The Ohio State University. 1976. 3 pp.

"A Package Deal," in CASE Currents, May 1993, pp. 38-42.

Survey of Need and Use for a National Logo and/or Logo. Ohio Sea Grant College Program. October 1988.

Using the Wordmark. University of Minnesota, University Relations Office. 1990. 4 pp.

Wilcox, Dennis L., Phillip H. Ault, and Warren K. Agee. Public Relations Strategies and Tactics. 2nd Edition.

Original guidelines written by Leigh Handel, formerly of South Carolina Sea Grant; updated by Kurt Byers and Carol Kaynor, Alaska Sea Grant.