The UC Office of the President recently decided to do away with a new UC logo and color scheme that was quietly implemented last summer due to a strong negative reaction from the public communicated through numerous social media campaigns and statements from various officials.
The short-lived new logo — a yellow “C” swish over a tall blue “U” block — was part of the “Onward California” marketing campaign and was designed by an in-house marketing team in order to modernize the university’s image. UCOP spokesperson Dianne Klein said the design was intended to reflect Californian character and innovation and attract more fundraising and state revenue.
Controversy over the logo switch spread throughout online social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter. According to change.org, after a week’s time, 54,384 people signed an online petition on the website to eradicate the new systemwide monogram.
UC Student Regent Jonathan Stein said he agreed with the majority of students and alumni about the logo and was glad when administration chose to withdraw the design.
“About finding a modern, hip and cool logo — maybe there are some advantages, but for an institution as prestigious as this one, it just felt off,” Stein said. “Administration has the responsibility to be responsive to students and, particularly after Prop 30, to be responsive to the public. I’m glad we canceled the new logo because it showed how responsive [UC administrators] were to the public.”
According to External Vice President for Statewide Affairs Nadim Houssain, the new logo did not connect with him, but the more important problem was the lack of involvement students had in this design change.
“I much preferred the older, traditional logo. I think it more accurately honors the riches of the UC system,” Houssain said. “I think that the new logo comes down to personal appeal, but the more problematic issue is that, to my knowledge, students were not consulted on what the logo would look like or that there was even going to be a new one. The logo was suspended, and I’m not sure if UC administration will introduce a new one. But if they do, they need to make sure the students play a more prominent role in that decision.”
Second-year art major Yuning Yang said she thought the new logo was an “internet joke” until she read letters sent by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and UCSB art professor Kip Fulbeck commenting on their disappointment in the new design and its sudden appearance.
“Fulbeck said [in his letter], ‘What gives you the right to design something that represents us when we didn’t even know about it?’” Yang said. “It demonstrates how the UC is perceived, and it’s unfair that the logo came out of nowhere without consulting us at the UC [schools.]”
The new logo was originally available in a variety of colors, such as pastels of beach-themed colors, and was sought to be not only modern but user-friendly. Yang said she felt this minimalistic style looked juvenile and unprofessional.
“I can see where [the idea] came from, but it looks like something a kid fiddling with Photoshop could make,” Yang said. “It is like the logo of an online school, not a prestigious college. The UC logo should reflect how prestigious our schools are.”
In a statement made on Dec. 14 by UCOP Vice President for External Relations Daniel Dooley, the controversy inaccurately framed the change as an “either-or choice between a venerated UC seal and a newly designed monogram.” Contrastingly, Dooley said the new graphic was not meant to replace the traditional, 144-year old “Let There Be Light” logo in diplomas or other documents but was a “piece of the visual identity system” meant to provide a “graphic cue to distinguish systemwide communications materials from those of individual campuses.”
According to Associated Students President and fourth-year global studies major Sophia Armen, the troubling aspect of the initial logo change was not the aesthetic quality of the logo itself but the question as to why, with an ever-growing applicant pool and a move of the university toward the private model, the UC system is trying to brand itself.
Houssain said he hopes the university system will move away from marketing and imaging work and seek to address more pressing current issues and concerns.
“I don’t want the UC system to focus too much on public image and commercializing of the institution,” Houssain said. “I want them to focus more on valuing the original goals the institution was based on.”
According to Armen, the new design produces both negative and positive implications.
“The scariest part [of the new logo] is the lack of consideration or input that [UC administration] had with students and faculty,” Armen said. “It was apparent that the response was a top-down decision, and the administration was not helpful. What’s interesting and important, however, is what happened when students and alumni responded. We do have an impact, and we should channel this not only because we were angry at the time but because of the change we could elicit. The good part is that maybe the university understands [this] due to their response toward the public’s rapid anger.”
Stein said he felt students should take the enthusiasm of their opposition against the new logo and join leadership by using it as firepower to focus on other educational matters.
“For the logo, there was so much about [it] that people were upset about, and there was 100 times the outrage for it than there was for other educational issues,” Stein said. “I wish we could capture some of that passion and energy and put it toward accessibility, affordability, funding and other huge issues present in higher education systems in California.”
Stein called on the student body to channel their frustration into positive change for the future of the system.
“I would ask every student who cared deeply about that logo change: Why did they care? Because the logo didn’t represent the school as well as they thought it should. So, they fought. If you fought, we want you to join us,” Stein said. “If you cared enormously about the logo, get involved in a fight to defend public education in California.”
A version of this article appeared on page 1 of January 7th, 2013’s print edition of the Nexus.