Home » What in the World Is Going on With Universal Orlando’s Park Logos? And Which Do You Prefer? Vote Here!

What in the World Is Going on With Universal Orlando’s Park Logos? And Which Do You Prefer? Vote Here!

It’s not unheard of for theme parks to relaunch their looks. From “EuroDisney” becoming “Disneyland Paris” to “Epcot” returning to “EPCOT” or the debut of “Disney’s Hollywood Studios,” keeping up with the times sometimes means a branding refresh and sometimes the launch of entirely new logos.

No one knows that more than Universal Orlando, which has undergone several branding up- and down-grades since the original Universal Studios Florida park opened in 1999. But the most recent has fans scratching their heads… Was Universal serious with that unusual resort-wide rebrand that only lasted nine days? Take a look through Universal’s four most recent “packages” of logos and let us know in the poll at the end, which do you think is the best look for this ever-evolving Orlando icon?

UOR Generation 1 (2002 – 2017)

If you’ve been to Universal Orlando Resort since about 2002 (when the short-lived and largely failed “Universal Studios Escape” moniker was dropped from the then-recently-expanded property), you’re probably familiar with the set of logos below.

Both the Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Florida logo both resembled the “globe” logo then in use at the larger Universal Studios. Meanwhile, the logo for Universal’s Islands of Adventure was a comic book-ready compass, colorful and saturated with an adventurous “tilt” and the park’s name sweeping away in the style of “Indiana Jones”. Likewise, Universal CityWalk was a colorful, vibey, modern asymmetrical cross between guitar picks and mid-century modernism with a hint of ’90s grunge.

Altogether, this logo “package” lasted from 2002 to 2017 – at 15 years, the longest-lived branding for Universal Orlando.

UOR Generation 2 (2017 – 2023)

In 2012, then-new owner Comcast unveiled an updated logo for the corporate Universal division of their acquired NBCUniversal. The updated style guide took a while to trickle down to the Universal Parks & Resorts division, but in 2017, Universal Orlando Resort finally saw a new logo package rolled out.

Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Florida both swapped their aesthetic to the updated corporate logo, which basically cooled the colors of the globe, changed the setting to nighttime, and replaced the cinematic “Copperplate Gothic” typeface of old with a modern, san-serif font.

Even still, the logo for Universal’s Islands of Adventure didn’t change at all, retaining its more hand-drawn, stylized appearance. (Which may be because a giant, dimensional marquee with the logo resides on the park’s Pharos Lighthouse which wouldn’t be easy to swap or to adapt to the more modern, “flat” style of logo design.) Universal CityWalk was updated to a much more contemporary look, coinciding with a major shuffling of the retail and dining district’s offerings.

And as luck would have it, the move also coincided with the opening of the resort’s first on-site waterpark, Universal’s Volcano Bay, whose logo was the epitome of the 2010s – flat, simple, and screen-printable with just a few colors.

The package got another addition when, in 2019, Universal announced their plans to open a third theme park, Universal’s Epic Universe. Clearly drawn from the same design aesthetic as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, the Epic Universe logo swapped Island’s gold compass for a bronze astrolabe, with an inset of stars and carved art deco eccentricities, meant to convey the new park’s more galactic, timeless, elemental design thesis. 

You could certainly argue that the logos of “Generation 2” weren’t all speaking the same “language.” Even if some logos feel like they fit together, there were certainly several different styles all in play. Even so, it seemed likely that this logo package would last for at least as long as the previous one had… but it didn’t. And things got weird… Read on…

UOR Generation 3

In March 2023, the Universal Parks & Resorts division was “upgraded” to Universal Destinations & Experiences, hinting at the new ambitious ethos that underscored both a new family park model coming to Texas and a year-round haunt experience en route to Las Vegas. Coinciding with the divisional change, the new “UDE” division actually broke off of the corporate Universal branding, launching its own sub-brand and a new logo, above.

Now, Universal Orlando Resort and Universal Studios Florida pledged allegiance not to the corporate Universal globe, but to the new stylization of the Destinations & Experience style guide. Consequently, they both got updated to new, flatter “globes.” But it seemed that the new branding was viewed as an excuse to finally bring all of Universal Parks’ logos into one design aesthetic. 

The way that played out for Universal Islands of Adventure and Universal Epic Universe was odd to say the least. Both swapped their hand-drawn, stylized, and colorful backgrounds for detailed, hyper-realistic, CGI vectors of a compass and astrolabe, respectively. The “hand-drawn” details and stylization were left behind in favor of very simple, bold shapes and word marks that fans pretty quickly described as “WordArt,” referencing Microsoft Office’s famously dimensional decorative text of drop shadows and highlights – something seen more in middle school PowerPoint presentations than corporate logos.

Similarly interesting were the new logos for Universal Volcano Bay and Universal CityWalk, which do admittedly fit the “aesthetic” of the Islands and Epic Universe logos… But of course, as fans quickly pointed out online, that aesthetic seemed to be early 2000s Nintendo Wii game box logo. Volcano Bay’s, in particular, is an odd, CGI wave, the original logo but made “dimensional”, and then a brushstroke volcano silhouette (also dimensional) that doesn’t match any of it. 

(Notably, this “generation” officially dropped the possessive-s from across the resort just as Disneyland instituted in its 2007 change to Disney California Adventure. All four possessive-s logos swapped to identical gold “Universal” prefixes, seeing language across Universal’s websites officially adapt to the new park names.)

Unsurprisingly, the Internet dogpiled on Universal, swiftly, mercilessly laughing the logos looked like someone fed descriptions of the old park logos into an AI art generator. Weirdly skeuomorphic in an era when designs are trending flatter, the CGI-rendered logos just seemed to lack artistry. As evidenced by Scott Walker’s tweet (above), it was almost inconceivable that these digital vector logos would actually be used in and around the parks, where the stylized, colorful, and altogether simpler designs had long reigned. Luckily, Universal seemed to hear the feedback.

UOR Generation 3.1(?)

On March 17, 2023 – just nine days after the debut of the new, resort-wide logos – Universal officially pulled the Gen. 3 designs down from its public media assets site. Yep. Barely a week after they’d launched the new portfolio of “GameCube” style logos to Twitter mockery, Universal reserved course. (As Twitter users sometimes say, “bullying works.”)

Rather than reverting to the Gen. 2 logos, though, the website was updated to replace each of the Gen. 3 logos with its secondary design. Nearly every corporate style guide provides for a secondary, simplified version of any associated logos – often meant to be used on a monochromatic background or when the logo will be small enough on printed or digital material that the secondary variant will read better than the full version. That’s clearly what we’ve ended up with…

It’s funny – these are just “secondary” versions of the much-mocked Gen. 3 logos… but they work! Probably because the need to remove clutter, dimensionality, and 3-D rendering solves many of the issues people had with Gen. 3 to begin with – the silver shines, bevels, and drop shadows of WordArt text; the odd CGI rendered compass and wave and neon; and the general chaos and busyness of overcomplex, over-engineered designs.

In comparison, the “flattened” variants feel like a matching family of logos that are all speaking the same language – and this time, it’s a good, simple, modern, flat, minimalist language that feels like a sleek, appropriate, stylish fit for the 2020s. That said, these are not final logos on their own rights. (You couldn’t after all, replace the giant logo on Islands of Adventure’s lighthouse with the simple line-work logo above – it would need filled and colored to be made into a dimensional marquee.)

For all we know, the Gen. 3 logos could come back tomorrow. Or maybe, modified versions that aren’t so mockable will be released instead. Or we may never see them again. For now, the “3.1” versions are fine placeholders, and show that there are some really nice foundational elements to the Gen. 3 logos – but sometimes strength resides in simplicity.

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