ULM logo
The Big Reveal
By Dr. Julia B. Letlow

Chief Communications Officer Lisa F. Miller presents the new rebranding campaign "The Best is on the Bayou" during The Big Reveal in August 2017.


What’s in a university’s identity? Many would say everything. It’s the heartbeat of an institution—its purpose, experiences, reputation, and memories. It’s the way a person feels when they think about the university or steps onto its campus.

At ULM in the Office of Marketing and Communications (OMC) we have the privilege of safeguarding this identity, and it’s not an assignment taken lightly. In fact, it guides every step we take and decision we make.

Lately, you may have noticed quite a few changes in ULM’s visual identity. We thought it pertinent to share the story of how we ended up where we are today, with a brand-new, yet somewhat familiar look.


In 2015, the OMC team began conducting extensive research on the university’s identity, or what we like to call “brand” in marketing jargon. It’s important to note that a brand is not simply just a logo, slogan, or a billboard. While a brand includes all of those components, it also includes intangible elements — an attitude, pride, how a person speaks about and perceives the university. All of these factors work together in harmony to create the overall brand. While combing through the many archives available, holding focus groups with — community members, students, faculty, staff, alumni — and conducting one-on-one interviews, it became evident that the university’s brand could be enhanced.

This was an extensive process, and numerous themes emerged; many of which will be used in marketing endeavors for years to come. But most importantly during this exercise, it became clear that the only way to identify ways to strengthen the brand was to first acknowledge the university’s rich history. And we found many facts about this great institution that continues to be strong and true.

The Beginning:

An early photo of the ULM campus.

The university began in Monroe, Louisiana, on Sept. 28, 1931 in Brown Hall, named after Mr. T.O. Brown, Superintendent of the Ouachita Parish School System, who had the vision to bring post-secondary education to this region. The university started under the name Ouachita Parish Junior College, and began to thrive, but our country would soon face trying times during the Great Depression.

During this time, the Junior College became a part of the Louisiana State University System in order to maintain funding and continue to provide higher education in northeast Louisiana. The LSU seal that marks this pivotal time in history can still be found above the door of Caldwell Hall.

In 1967, the institution gained financial stability, began awarding four-year degrees, and took a huge leap forward with the designation as Northeast Louisiana State College. In 1970, the momentum continued with the new name, Northeast Louisiana University. And in 1999, 18 years ago, the official name became University of Louisiana Monroe.


The Design:

As we continued to research, it became clearer that with every name change ULM took a step forward in strength and stature. Instead of viewing change as a weakness, it was undeniable that it propelled us forward as an institution into who we are today. These changes, we realized, should be honored and respected.

We also learned that ULM’s strengths are evident in many different areas, including our ever-expanding academic programs that continue to prepare student after student in their respective fields. The beauty found on campus has always been second to none with Bayou DeSiard winding directly through the heart of campus. The buildings that originated with Brown Hall now sprawl out over an impressive 238 acres, and the iconic art-deco remains a consistent architectural theme. Student life is still as vibrant as ever and growing at record speed.

The examples of strength and progression were evidenced over and over again, but we recognized that these characteristics mostly speak to what we “do” as a university. After speaking with so many of you, it became clear that ULM’s strengths are not only found in what we do — our accomplishments, new buildings, programs or events. Our strength lies in how people feel while they are here — it is that sense of family and belonging from the first moment they step foot on this campus — that is what truly sets ULM apart from the rest. 

Our takeaway from the entire market research process was that it is the time spent here on campus surrounded by the beauty of the bayou that continues to connect everyone. It brought generations together from days past, it continues to do so on this very day, and it will continue for future generations — hence our two new slogans were born: “Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.” and “The Best is on the Bayou.”

Illustration by Srdjan Marjanovic

Once we had the right concept in place it was important to identify a strong and concise visual identity to accompany it — a logo.  We set the bar high for ourselves, and wouldn’t accept mediocrity. A strong logo has to be a number of things: historic, memorable, enduring, visually appealing, and most of all, meaningful. A great university logo also finds a way to incorporate three major elements: (1) the full name of the institution — University of Louisiana Monroe (2) The university acronym — ULM (3) and an identifiable icon — the Warhawk. Our Creative Director, Srdjan Marjanovic, designed many different logo options, and ultimately designed one that fulfilled all of these requirements and tested remarkably well with many different focus groups.

During the design process, it was important to find common denominators that resonated with all generations. In order to do this, we included graphic elements from every prior logo into the new one. The circular shape was recycled from logos past and the circle happens to be the strongest of all geometric shapes. The Warhawk head embedded in the letter “L” is an abstract illustration of the Warhawk head found in the large statue that anchors the campus. The six indentions found on the stem of the “L” mark the six times the university has served this region under different names.

After testing the logo with multiple groups, it became apparent that by incorporating all of the elements from past logos that each generation was resonating with it, and it is our hope they will continue to for generations to come.

ULM Cheerleaders at the Big Reveal.

On August 14, the new marketing campaign along with the new logo and concepts were unveiled at “The Big Reveal” in Brown Auditorium. Lisa Miller, Chief Communications Officer, gave a captivating talk on the evolution of the campaign and the new logo to a packed house. Her presentation was recorded live and will be reproduced digitally. Since the big reveal, the feedback from the campus and community has been astounding.

Jarrod Breithaupt, an alumnus and current staff member whose entire immediate family graduated from the university, said “I think the new logo perfectly ties together the old cultures of NLSC and NLU and the new culture of ULM. I believe it is all-encompassing for our identity. It pays homage to the past, embraces the present, and blazes a new trail into a bright-looking future.”

The ULM Bookstore showcases new apparel and products.


Scott McDonald, a community businessman, supporter, and alumnus sent the university a message describing his experience at The Big Reveal, “I appreciate the time, effort, thought and care that went into re-developing this logo. I believe it is so important for all to know how much research was done to pull all these elements together. I first started tagging along with my folks on that campus in the mid-60’s as they continued their education in graduate school, so the images presented today made my eyes well up with tears.”

This university that so many of us have called our own over the years continues to be that sparkling gem on the bayou. It is an honor in the Office of Marketing and Communications to find ways to share its many accomplishments, heritage, and uniqueness with the world. And it is with great expectation that this new look will continue to unite the past, represent the present, and embrace the future. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow…The best has been and always will be, on the bayou. 

Check out the Big Reveal Presentation from August 14, 2017

The Big Reveal Presentation from University of Louisiana Monroe on Vimeo.