The Northwestern logo consists of two elements: the seal and the signature.
On June 26, 1856, during the first year Northwestern held classes and only five years after its founding, Northwestern trustees adopted an official seal that would be affixed to formal University documents. Over the next 35 years new features were added, and by 1891 all of the familiar elements of the current seal were in place.
The University's name had its origins in the founders' goal of creating an educational institution to serve the people of the former Northwest Territory, the region between the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, which would become the present states of Illinois, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, and part of Minnesota.
The year of Northwestern's founding.
Quaecumque Sunt Vera
This Latin phrase was adopted as the University's official motto in 1890. Translated as "Whatsoever things are true," it comes from the New Testament book of Philippians (4:8), in which St. Paul admonishes the Christians in the Greek city of Philippi: "Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things."
In Greek and Roman mythology, the laurel was sacred to Apollo, god of sunlight, prophecy, music, and poetry. When gathered into a wreath and placed on the brow of a poet, artist, or other luminary, the laurel symbolized excellence in the arts or sciences. A person so honored was known as a laureate, a word that continues to denote achievement today.
Books and rays
The open book and the rays of light surrounding it symbolize learning and enlightenment. Inscribed on the pages of the open book is a Greek phrase transliterated as "ho logos pleres charitos kai aletheias," which means "The Word ... full of grace and truth." This phrase was added to the seal along with the Latin motto and comes from the Gospel of John (1:14): "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we behold His glory, and the glory was of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Like the Latin motto, this Greek phrase not only expresses the ethical and moral values the University's founders wished to promote but also is a reminder of Northwestern's roots in the Methodist Church.
The words "Northwestern University" are set in Goudy, a classic, timeless typeface. It was designed in 1914 by Frederic W. Goudy (1865-1947), an Illinois native who began designing typefaces in Chicago in 1897 and became one of the 20th century's most important American type designers. Emerging from the same historical and cultural milieu as the University, the Goudy typeface might be said to reflect Midwestern values. Its straightforward, self-assured, and unpretentious character makes it an appropriate choice for Northwestern.