8 December 12

New University of California Logo: Infantilizing the Academy

New UC logo Curious timing for the release of the new University of California’s branding campaign: Friday afternoon, and Friday afternoon during skiing season, when it may well have gone unnoticed by many.

In twelve hours there were 5,000 signatures on a petition to withdraw the new logo. Comments have been exasperated, some have been hilarious, almost all of them have been unequivocally negative.

It’s a difficult design task, to come up with a logo (this isn’t a replacement, the university seal has never been a “logo,” but formed part of a mark that included the motto “Fiat Lux”) that encompasses the land-grant mission across ten campuses, that draws on a tradition of academic excellence that includes 59 Nobel laureates. I’m not sure I would have been up to the task. That said…

My issues? The logo looks like one more suited to a children’s book publisher, specializing in under-three-year-old fare. (Not to mention the spiral C swirling down the drain, which at least is honest.) It’s like a radioactive millipede. Call me an old fart, but I still think university branding ought to involve some sense of gravitas, something that reflects the tradition and importance of the academic endeavor. Unless you’re peddling bought degrees to illiterates. This logo mocks the exorbitant fees charged of undergraduates. If I were one of them, I’d be seeking a transfer. Now.

This logo is like one of those sadly ill-advised uniform changes of baseball teams in the 1970s. Is this what we want? People laughing their socks off in forty years over the “ten worst university logos of all time,” which this would surely top? The rotund “c” does harken back to an earlier time, to be sure, but perhaps not one we should be all that enthusiastic about replicating: 1970s mass-culture design, finally breaking free of helvetica’s black-and-white austere totalitarianism of 60s high culture, playfulness much loved by Dunkin Donuts (note the interesting spelling, maybe we should copy that, too) and burger establishments, it’s a shameless dumbing-down.

As a member of the University of California community, a venerable public institution under fire, reeling from years of budget cuts, whose state just mere weeks ago voted to TAX ITSELF in order to save its infrastructure of education from complete devastation, I am disappointed. I’m actually quite angry. I’m signing the petition. Not that I think we have any chance whatsoever of stopping the purveyors of watered-down Ikea-like dreck from completing the task of rendering the university irrelevant; I’m just sad to think they’d do it so blatantly.

Ikea roll

December 17, 2012: The University’s Office of the President has withdrawn the logo in the face of the opposition because it’s causing “a distraction.” Defensiveness (and there’s plenty of it) aside, they should be commended for paying attention.

Posted by at 11:49 AM in Design Arts | Link |
  1. The LA Times has an article noting that many agree with you!

    Critics say new UC logo is not dignified enough



    Greg    8. December 2012, 15:43    Link
  2. You tell ‘em! Ugly, stupid, and signifying nothing. Why?

    Dale Favier    8. December 2012, 17:16    Link
  3. Thanks, Greg and Dale. Nearly 35,000 signatures at 9:30 on Sunday morning…

    Pica    9. December 2012, 09:39    Link
  4. I believe I forgot to tell you how much fun I had reading this.

    Ron Sullivan    2. January 2013, 15:52    Link

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