Harvard is a name that everyone knows and recognizes. As a school with a legacy that spans centuries, the university is known for its integrity, strength and intellectual prowess. Similarly, its logo embodies these regal qualities — and then some.
"Veritas Christo et Ecclesiae”
Those are the Latin words embedded in the logo and shield. Translated directly, these words mean, “Truth for Christ and the Church.” Rightfully so, this motto remains true to this day, with students and faculty constantly on the search for truth and honesty through their studies and their daily experiences.
The logo itself is made up of a shield, with this motto etched on what look like books. The shield is a bright, powerful red. And in some places, this shield is encircled by a wreath of leaves.
This symbol is enigmatic and is easily one of the most recognizable logos on this earth — it’s a powerful image that evokes deep emotions of honesty, truthfulness and the pursuit of excellence.
But how did this logo grow to such prominence? What is the history behind this stoic and solid image?
Harvard was first founded in 1636. It was created with the intention of training Christian ministers — which is why the Latin motto was chosen in the first place. This was to be a place of god, of learning and of enlightenment.
But it wasn’t until the bicentennial in 1836 that the original shield sketch was uncovered and the image we know now began making its appearance on campus. President Josiah Quincy found the coat of arms in an old sketchbook that September, and during their celebrations, the design was created on a white banner and hung in a large tent.
In 1843, the seal was officially adopted and has remained the same ever since.
Across the campus you can still see this shield and phrasing — whether it’s on the front doors of academic buildings, crafted into the front gates, or embedded in regal statues. This image is a powerful one that exudes the history and integrity of the university as a whole.
See how New York Unversity's clean and modern logo stands out as an iconic symbol here.
The logo as it’s seen today is a powerful display of sophistication, moral astuteness and honor. And while there are some variations of this image, they are all equally impactful.
In most instances — on school websites and social media accounts, the logo stands as a single, angular crimson shield. The red color is deep and captivating while the shape of the shield oozes strength and authenticity.
Inside this shield are three books. These books are sitting open, and within them are the letters that correspond to the school motto — Veritas is spelled out across all three open books to signify the power of learning and its importance to a healthy and successful society and moral compass.
In some places, this shield will be encircled by a wreath that exudes sophistication and class. It calls back to a biblical time and further emphasizes the pursuit of truth in accordance with the Lord.
These are the two most common images of the logo, though variations of the shield can be found across the campus. The difference with these images is that the third book that lies at the bottom of the shield is actually face-down — this is in reference to the limitations of human and earthly knowledge.
There are limits to reason and what God can teach you — and that’s why the original designers created the image in this way.
This is a very simple image, with little going on and subtle colors being used — but that doesn’t mean that there is no feeling evoked from the image.
The red crimson color was designated the color of Harvard back in 1910 after rowers began handing out crimson scarves. This became the color of the college — and for good reason. It’s a strong color that demands to be seen.
The lack of other design elements puts the emphasis on the words etched within. And that’s important — the whole point of creating this university was to continue the pursuit of truth — in science, the arts and beyond. By keeping this design simple and focuses on these qualities — strength, and truth — the logo sends a very clear and direct message.
From its conception, the Harvard logo and coat of arms was a powerful and captivating symbol of scholarly learning, the pursuit of truth and the power of the human mind. It was originally intended to put men on the path of truth and knowledge in the eyes of God but has seen a subtle shift in the school becoming a secular institution.
The deep emotions and feelings evoked by this memorable logo design, however, have stood resolute.
Through the use of bold and engaging colors, powerful messaging and old-world elements, this logo design is one that exudes confidence, authority, and fortitude, and will continue to do so for years to come.