Penn State Smeal
Style Guidelines

An extension of the Penn State Brand Book


Opt for Dynamic Angles

Our brand visual language hinges on angles to create dynamic graphics and layouts. When appropriate, use perspective to incorporate more angles into an image.

Use a wide angle lens for landscapes and large interior shots. Angles can be a part of the foreground or background and blurred through a shallow depth of field (see top right image).

A photograph of a woman in Smeal
A photograph of students at Smeal

Keep It Shallow

A shallow depth of field guides the viewer to a distinct focal point in the image. The subject will be in focus while the background and foreground are blurred.

To achieve this, use as low of an aperture value as possible – ideally under f2.8 — and maintain as much separation between the background and the subject as possible. Light leaks and bokeh effects are encouraged. Light leaks and bokeh effects should not be applied to photographs afterwards. They are encouraged as a photographic process but not as an applied filter or effect.

A photograph of a man with a shallow depth of field
A student graduating with bokeh around him
another student with bokeh around the image

Let the Light In

Natural light gives an authentic tone to our photography. Always take advantage of natural light whenever possible.

When shooting indoors, be sure to shoot near windows and keep the subject bright and vibrant. If no natural light is available, use artificial light to ensure that the subject is well-lit. Use softboxes, diffusers, and reflectors when necessary to avoid harsh shadows.

An image of a student in natural light
Three students in a photo with natural light

In the Studio

Studio portraiture is an effective way to highlight an individual and incorporate our brand color palette. Our portrait style can be captured both with soft natural light or with artificial softboxes, reflectors, and diffusers.

When a studio backdrop is not available, the subject can be captured on a blank (preferably light) background that can be altered later in Photoshop. Always pose the individual far enough away from the backdrop to avoid any shadows. Use a lens with a long focal length to avoid distortion of the face.

An example of a studio shoot
Another example of a studio shoot


Apply text or brand assets over photographs with care. To improve legibility, you may apply a subtle gradient overlay using only black or Nittany Navy.

Use black or Nittany Navy only: do not apply other colors as a gradient overlay.

Do not apply geometric patterns, graphic patterns, or Duotone textures as a gradient.

An example of a gradient used in a photo