UPDATE 28/04/2015 - The Loughborough Echo reports a University spokesperson saying that after "The strength of feeling around the change" the new logo they are "proposing that the roll-out of the new identity is paused at this point to allow us to take stock and to listen to concerns".
Update #2 15/09/2015 - Loughborough University have released details on the branding of their second new logo in 6 months - read about the new purple shield.
Here in the UK it feels like one sector that has thrived despite the downturn are Universities and Colleges. Certainly looking around Derby almost any empty building in the city seems to be snapped up by Derby Uni.
But it’s a competitive world and Universities of all natures are fighting hard for both homegrown students and the exceptionally lucrative foreign undergrads.
It’s no surprise then that some Universities are looking to their brand in order to differentiate themselves from the rest. It’s a process that’s worth taking care with. Historically Universities were hotbeds of protest, that doesn’t feel so true these days, unless it’s a change to the University logo, then the student fires are lit.
A cautionary note then should taken at the very least from the University of California (UC). In 2012 UC pushed an internally designed modern new brand and it’s students didn’t like it. Cue a social media firestorm and a change.org petition that gained 50,000+ signatures, which is around a 5th of the standing student body. This resulted in UC withdrawing the design.
There was lots of upset folks who thought the new design didn’t have the clout of a quality uni, they didn’t want it to replace the victorian seal. The uni insisted that the seal wasn’t going anywhere, and that the uni hadn’t had a logo previously.
So then when UK institutions Warwick University and Loughborough University (Lboro) launched ultra modern new logos at the end of April, one assumes they took a good look around the field in order to avoid historical pitfalls.
The University of Warwick Logo
The University of Warwick based in the West Midlands city of Coventry, is a Russell Group member and regularly finds itself in the top 10 UK Universities, the top 50 World Universities and was named The Times University of the Year 2015 (Paywall). It’s a relatively modern Uni, being given charter in the 1960’s.
When the uni launched a modern “W” monogram, twitter lit up, a petition was started and pretty much the same pattern as UC began. They also got plenty of media, including from the student friendly Guardian newspaper.
The same complaints were made of a lack of gravitas, that it’s not representative of such an illustrious institution and that students weren’t consulted. The uni says they undertook consultation with 160 students, staff and alumni. With a cost of £80,000 for the rebrand, £16k for the logo alone, the usual cries of expense can also be heard!
Loughborough University Logo
Loughborough University, based in the East Midlands, was established by charter around the same time as Warwick. It has a reputation for excellence in it’s sports subjects, and was the Times University of the Year in 2008.
They’ve switched from a 1996 designed shield with an awkward L hidden in it, to a pink octagon with LU inside in a rounded sans serif.
Lboro Uni jocks, not to be outdone by their not too distant cousins, also launched a petition. Similar complaints of low brow logos for high brow institutions ensue, but also the basic complaint the the logo isn’t very good. I guess it does look like it belongs to a children’s toy range and not an academic institution.
Should Universities replace their logos?
Both Loughborough and Warwick logos look to be additions rather than replacements of their respective crests, as was the case with UC, however the students don’t see it that way. It seems like marketing directors at these places want a modern brand at the same time as keeping the heritage and class of the traditional crest.
They use the modern brand to advertise and attract, with the crest in a supporting role, but taking centre stage at graduation and on certificates etc.
It seems that this explanation doesn’t make it across and students want or expect the clout of a heraldic mark. One fear seems to be that employers might assume that their modern branded 2:1 degree doesn’t look as good as one with a shield and some feathers. That employers actually care what the logo looks like?
Personally I don’t mind the Warwick logo, it’s got a considered gradient thats not just an illustrator tool effect. I’m less fussed about what they’ve done with the text. The subtext looks like Aviner, which I adore, but they seem to have chopped it about for the main text, knocking out chunks on the R, playing with the K (which now incorporates a backwards pointing arrow) and abusing the W’s.
The Loughborough one has less going for me. It’s rounded font (DIN Pro Next Rounded?) is a little too casual and accompanied by the round cornered octagon, it all looks a little too play school. I find it hard to feel sorry for the old logo, which didn’t itself stand for much, but I might I’ve it more credit than the current design.
Two to keep an eye on in the coming weeks, and room I think for a wider post on how Universities can avoid this issue, but that’s for another day.
What do folks think, is it good for Universities to freshen up their brands? Are the students right in thinking that these modern designs don;t reflect their uni? Or is it all just fuss and social media melee? Shout out in the comments!