No Go for the UC Logo

When images of the new University of California logo began popping up on Facebook in early December, a UC-student outrage unseen since the Alexandra Wallace fiasco was unleashed. However, there were many misconceptions regarding the logo’s use and purpose. While it was commendable that the UC system responded to the backlash by suspending further use of the new logo, the public outcry could have been prevented if there were greater efforts to receive student feedback in the logo’s creation.

Designed by an in-house design team, the new logo featured a blue U-shaped figure with a fading yellow ‘C’ at the bottom. The main designer was a UC graduate, whose parents both taught at the UC system. Administration had high hopes for the new logo, but the monogram was not received well by the public. In the comments section of any online news source, from the L.A. Times to the Huffington Post, people made comparisons to a flushing toilet, a loading wheel, a banana sticker and a generic corporate logo — the comparisons were endless. After 55,000 people signed an online petition to have the logo removed, along with spirited input by Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the UC system relented. The removal of the new monogram has already begun on a digital front, and while the UC system will not throw away materials with the new logo, it will cease to create materials with it.

However, many people erroneously believed that the logo would completely replace the historic UC seal created in 1895 by Tiffany & Co. The logo would not have replaced the official seal on diplomas, letterheads or other official documents. Instead, it would have served to bring a more modern feel to websites, fundraising publications and recruiting and public affairs campaigns. The redesign was meant to convey how relevant the University of California is to the state, be eye-catching and reproduce well digitally and in small spaces. Critics who complained that one could not tell that the logo had anything to do with the UC system were unaware that the words ‘University of California’ would still accompany the new logo.

While the logo was not entirely created without student direction, the UC system did not do the transition in a manner that effectively got the message across to the public. According to Steve Montiel, media relations director for the university president’s office, students, parents, alumni and chancellors did provide input in the design of the logo. The UC Office of the President commented on its Youtube channel that the creation was a collaborative process, and that the UC system’s aim was to build off of the traditional seal while demonstrating the UC’s strong tradition of pioneering innovation, for which they had generally received positive feedback.

Despite these statements, the vast majority of students did not get the memo that a new logo was in the works while it was being designed. Most found out after-the-fact from social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which largely contributed to the misunderstanding that the logo would completely replace the traditional UC seal on students’ diplomas.

The UC wrongly focused its energy on making a “cool” and modern video which attempted to explain the thinking behind the creation of the new monogram, which was reminiscent of Facebook’s failed October chair video. The video was filled with imagery, allegory, and metaphor while failing to explain why or how the logo would be used. It is the UC system’s job to properly inform students that the image of the university might potentially change.

In the future, the administration should more effectively convey any intended changes to students. Harvard has redesigned its seal over half a dozen times since its inception in 1650, but it always included certain recognizable hallmarks such as their shield. The UC system may want to go the Harvard route and incorporate elements from the old UC seal. The good news is: This incident shows that administration does listen and respond to criticism from the students.

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