Trademarks as a Design Element

This guidance is primarily focused on the spirit mark and crest (laurel seal). The interlocking UB may be used as a design element, but only in very limited applications and should only be done in consultation with University Communications (UC).

Guidelines for cropping trademarks or using as a watermark


  • The marks, if cropped, should be done in such a way that clearly identifiable elements remain visible to help ensure the integrity and recognizability of the mark.
  • The mark should not be cropped in such a way that could fundamentally change perception of the element (e.g., cropping the spirit mark in a circular shape such that the horns are effectively removed).
  • Clear space and secondary reference rules still apply, as does the requirement to use the university name in conjunction (but not locked up) with the use of the crest.
Spirit mark in a blue circle.
Spirit mark in a blue circle.

Use as a watermark

  • No visual effects should be used that degrade the integrity or compromise the recognizability of the mark.
  • Standard secondary reference rules apply.* A secondary reference is always required to ensure the trademarked design element is appropriately and recognizably attributed to UB.

    For example, use of the crest as a large-scale accent, partially cropped on a publication cover, should be accompanied by the master brand mark or appropriate unit extension or sub-brand.
Brochure cover.
* Secondary Reference

The secondary reference requirement is not necessary for on-campus environmental applications as there are abundant secondary references present that localize the mark to the university. The use of secondary references in high-profile on-campus locations (e.g., athletic spaces) is strongly encouraged and in some cases will be required, particularly when the space is likely to be photographed or video recorded for external use.


Use as a design element on merchandise

  • When applied to merchandise and promotional items, the watermark must always be accompanied by at least one fully expressed (i.e., not cropped or stylized) trademark as a secondary reference.

    For example,
    use of a cropped spirit mark as a design element should be accompanied by an official Athletics mark (e.g., half spirit mark and fully visible stylized “BUFFALO” wordmark).
Laptop bag.
  • Third-party logos/marks should never be layered over, obscure or dominate UB trademarks in such a way that could be perceived as secondary or less prominent—positionally or proportionally—to a third-party’s logos or marks.
  • To ensure legibility and accessibility, make sure there is appropriate contrast when type is used over a watermark or design element, particularly if layered over a photo or other type of background.