The iconography of universities as institutional narratives

Gili S. Drori*, Giuseppe Delmestri, Achim Oberg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


The coming of “brand society” and the onset of mediatization spur universities to strategize their visual identity and pay particular attention to their icon. Resulting from branding initiatives, university icons are visual self-representations and material-cum-symbolic forms of organizational identity. In this work we ask: What identity narratives are conveyed through the organizational iconography of universities? How do narratives combine in this iconography? Drawing upon content analysis of Internet front-page icons of 826 universities from 22 countries, we identify four identity narratives: guild-like classic narrative, professional scientific narrative, localized narrative, and organizational narrative. Second, we show that such visual self-representations of university identity appear as products of broad historical themes. Last, we consider the relations between the four visualized identity narratives, showing evidence for iconographic sedimentation between the compatible guild-like classical, professional, and local-national narratives, along with iconographic abrasion of the logic of managed organization on the former. We discuss such findings in relation to the historical studies of the institution of the university.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)163-180
Number of pages18
JournalHigher Education
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015, Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht.


  • Identity narratives
  • Institutionalism
  • Organizational iconography
  • University
  • World society


Dive into the research topics of 'The iconography of universities as institutional narratives'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this