Branding Apocalypse: UC Logo Edition

UClogo4When PaperSpecs called attention to the buzz around the University of California rebranding last month, little did we know that UC’s move would become a sobering lesson…in thinking things through.

The controversy began when roughly 54,000 students and alumni signed a petition on Change.org to prevent the school from replacing its dignified official seal with a more whimsical monogram. After the brouhaha, San Francisco designer Christopher Simmons posted a lengthy rebuke on the AIGA website taking the media and designers to task for “misreporting” that the logo would replace the seal. As he explains:

uc_logo3“The seal was to be used on official university materials such as stationery and diplomas, while the monogram would be used as part of a visual identity system on marketing and promotional materials. The monogram, and the visual language that supported it, were part of a separate, concurrent system designed to augment the existing identity, not supplant it.”

As sincere as Simmons’ thorough piece is, the fault lies not with media reports but with the university itself. Resources being what they are, UC leaned significantly on a single video it produced to introduce their new monogram:

Since the only time you see the traditional seal in this video is when a hand is sweeping it away, we are left with only two possible conclusions:

  1. If UC intended to use the seal AND the monogram, they completely bungled their attempt to explain this in their PR efforts.
  2. After the negative feedback, they changed their minds and simply claimed they never meant to ditch the seal in the first place.

At the very least, UC broke one of the big rules of branding: have only one logo; more can lead to confusion. If the golden arches are good enough for McDonald’s, the seal (or hang it, the monogram) is good enough for the University of California.

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