Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Piling on

Ultimately, the world will spin on, and the University of California's new logo will become part of our psychic landscape.

The kerfuffle will snuff out, and all this derision will simmer to barely perceptible sneers among people who hold dear California's vaunted university system.

(I'm not among them; I'm sneering just because I just don't like the logo. And I'm not alone.)

I get the begetting of the new logo. I can just hear the passionate points of defense by the in-house design team that created it — once they have been bound and shackled and dragged to a news conference replete with torches and pitchforks, the chancellors hiding in dark corners:

• After 144 years, it's time for a change.

• We want to reflect the young demographic.

• We have to compete harder for students and money.

• The old logo doesn't look good online.

• People call the place UC anyway, and we've turned the uprights of the "U" into an open book (one little obligatory nod to the old logo), and the half-resolved (half-dissolved?) "C" represents the students and the university as works in progress.

OK, but …

• Maybe after 144 years and worldwide acclaim, change is not quite that urgent.

• The young demographic is probably not thinking, "Hey, cool logo!"

• Even after $900 million in cuts and seemingly constant tuition and fee increases, and feeble support from the state to uphold one of the world's great university systems, I find the competition argument incredible. Students come from all over the world to get a UC education, elbows and transcripts flying furiously, and in California you have to be president of half the high school clubs, vice president of the others, hold a 4+ GPA and cure dysentery in a remote Central American village before the admissions board will consider opening your application. And then it's a maybe.

• The old logo hasn't exactly failed online. It succeeds mostly because it's been around for nearly 150 years, seeped into our collective subconscious. Part of me, on seeing it, thinks, "Ah, Nobel Prize winners. The haughty and the mighty." The irony is that the new logo, before wysiwyg and electronic technology, would have required some mean tricks to reproduce well on printed publications.

When I saw the new logo last week in a promotional video, my first thought: It looks like another one of the many for-profit universities that implore the unemployed during daytime TV to transform their lives at their many convenient campuses.

All those universities have bright eye catching logos because they have to. They're going head-to-head with all the other for-profit schools. They have little or no history to lean on, so the shiny logo is all.

If the University of California was launching today, its new logo might be one idea for consideration, but wouldn't make the cut. But neither would the all-things-for-all-people logos that schools and municipalities favor so often, with crests of a dozen or more tiny graphics symbolizing anything and everything, so no one is omitted or offended. But cram-it-all-in was the fashion at the time the University of California designed its original logo; thus the stars and rays and scrolled filligree. I'm willing to cut UC some slack.

To my surprise, the howls of rage over the logo have sprung far and wide today, including a petition and a facebook page against it.

Some call it a Stanford prank. Others see in the new logo images I hadn't considered, including one that UC may never live down:

A toilet flushing.


  1. Gotta agree. Not well done -- especially the disappearing "soft and squishy C" -- looks more like a yogurt brand (think malleable tube of soft serve) or a bad re-think of bubblicious gum.

  2. a worthy idea, but i wonder if it got a lot of focus grouping. i'm thinking probably, but i'm also thinking, "what were you thinking?"