Is the New UC Logo a ‘Big Breath of Fresh Air’ or ‘a Flushing Toilet’?

UPDATE 2:37 pm. Dec. 14: The university has suspended use of the controversial logo. Learn more here. A UC online video about the logo that had appeared at the bottom of this post has been removed from the Internet by the university.

UPDATE 4:46 pm. Dec. 11: The university’s press office has posted a lengthy response to the online criticism of the new logo that in part explains the difference between the logo and the UC seal. In the response the logo is described as a “small monogram that appears on many of the university’s systemwide Web pages, as well as its marketing and communication materials.” The response also includes these quotes from Jason Simon, the marketing communications director at the university’s office of the president:

“The seal signifies the prestige and tradition of the university itself, and is a treasured part of the UC identity,” Simon said. “There has never been any plan to replace it with the monogram.”

The monogram serves an entirely different visual function than the UC seal — and media images showing the two symbols side by side have fueled that misunderstanding, Simon said.

Simon said there has been no discussion about dropping the monogram, but stressed that all of the elements of the systemwide visual identity were designed to be flexible, with the expectation that they would evolve over time.

An online petition asking the UC’s Board of Regents to find an alternative to the logo now has more than 47,000 supporters.

UPDATE 2:37 p.m. Dec. 11: The University of California just posted this response to the criticism of the logo on its Facebook page:

We’ve been listening intently to the feedback on the UC symbol, and we wanted to make sure people saw that it is just a part of a richer picture. Here’s a little bit of the before and after: http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/news/documents/uc_brand_large.pdf.

Here’s the thing: It’s not replacing anything. There wasn’t a logo before, and the UC seal isn’t going anywhere. The symbol also isn’t new. It’s been on websites, brochures, advertising and other places for nearly a year now.

Did we consult people and test it? Of course. And we also used it in a mobile exhibit that stopped at all 10 campuses and nearly 30 other locations throughout California from September through November. More than 60,000 people came to the tour stops, letting their voices be heard on what really matters: ensuring that Californians understand the value and commitment UC has to making our state better.

Does everyone like the new symbol? No. That’s very clear. But strong differences of opinion and energetic debate are part of what’s made UC such an amazing place. This system reflects that diversity of thought: All of the elements (not just the symbol) were designed to be flexible, so it may evolve over time.

Original post:

The University of California's new monogram logo.
The University of California's new monogram logo.

To Ethan Davis, the new visual branding for the University of California is “a witty, fresh, charismatic and entirely unstuffy aesthetic — an aesthetic that seemed to go against all standard expectations of what public education should look like.” Davis writes on the blog Grain Edit that the university’s new identity is part of what drew him to the job as a senior designer for the UC system.

“It’s exciting, and a big breath of fresh air to be involved. I look forward to more of it,” he states.

Others, however, are describing the new branding in less flattering terms.

“This looks like a flushing toilet,” writes one commenter on the Grain Edit post.

“…complete with buttocks,” adds another. On the KQED News Facebook page, commenters called it “lame,” “hideous” and “ridiculously ugly.” News reports about the change late last week have sparked an online protest that includes a petition asking the UC’s Board of Regents to find an alternative to the new branding. The petition had attracted more than 37,000 supporters by this morning.

Some also have taken to the comment threads of news organizations and blogs to voice their displeasure with the change. A commenter on a Fast Company post about the rebranding writes that “it’s demoralizing to hear that our University system is making a joke of itself.”

That’s probably not the reaction university officials were hoping for when they began the unveiling. The UC’s brand guidelines state that the change “embodies both the relevance and rootedness of the university.” UC system spokeswoman Dianne Klein talked with the Los Angeles Times about the inspiration for the change and how the new branding would be used. She emphasized that it will not replace the university’s seal.

…Klein said critics wrongly assume that UC is eliminating the traditional symbol. In fact, that will remain on all diplomas and official correspondence such as presidential letters, among other uses.

But she said the old logo does not reproduce well in small size on Internet pages and that UC wanted something more visually contemporary and versatile, especially for online efforts to seek donations and recruit applicants.

Among the places that you’ll find the new branding is on Onward California, the university’s new fundraising site. Vanessa Correa, the university’s creative director and the leader of the team that created the new logo, told Fast Company that it’s “meant to be scalable, flexible, dynamic, and adaptable; something that would let us talk to our diverse audiences while maintaining recognizability.”

“Our unit was formed with the express purpose of improving the university’s ability to tell its stories,” says Correa, who was principal of her own studio in Chicago before moving west. “How can we make them intelligible and relevant to the public?” UC is a hub not only for groundbreaking research, but for the Bay Area’s burgeoning startup scene. The identity would need to reflect all of that.

A post on the petition opposing the change quotes a university official as saying that UC is listening to the feedback it’s receiving online.

What do you think of the new branding? Does it reflect the university’s identity? Post a comment below and let us know.

  • http://twitter.com/plerf BC Martin

    Flush twice the tuition still stinks

  • http://www.jonk.org jonk

    i saw the new logo while waiting for security at OAK a while back. at first i thought it was a joke or for some sort of subsidiary. but no.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1420013507 David Johnson
    • http://www.kqednews.org/ Ian Hill, KQED News

      I could definitely do a separate post with all the Photoshop/meme/remixes of the logo. There are a lot of funny images out there.

  • maureen wruck

    who in the hell picked, drew, accepted this ugly, nothinnees for UC. F*&#%*g ugly. Is conveys nothing. My bank (Union Bank of CA.) has the same background. WTF UC!!

  • ben mabie

    Here are some funny but telling moments from the video: at one point, you can literally see a hand brushing away the book from the old fiat lux seal. It may seem like a hyperbole to suggest that this change is a reflection of a greater emphasis on marketing, branding, and business on the part of UC administrators, but it is worth noting that this change in design also came with a new statement of intent from the University of California office of the president.

    The first sentence of the paragraph listing priorities under “Our Mission” says: “Our employees manage multibillion-dollar fiscal and business operations with a clear focus on strengthening the financial health of the whole system.”

    The word education does not show up once in said mission statement.

    http://vimeo.com/53530934

    http://www.ucop.edu/mission/

    • scottbergen

      This is the mission statement for the Office of the President, not for the UC system. They are not educators; they are business people. The first words in the UC’s mission statement are, “We teach…” But if you want to be nit-picky, while “education” might not be the OP’s mission, the next sentence after the one you mentioned included “academic,” “research,” “campus,” “lab” and “medical center.”

      But the Hartford Whalers/toilet logo is pretty awful.

      http://www.universityofcalifornia.edu/aboutuc/mission.html

      • ben mabie

        i understand where you’re coming from, but there is also a substantive difference between the maintenance of medical centers and research facilitates and the reproduction of a means of quality undergraduate, graduate, and community education. The former are massive streams of income, and the latter only are in the case that massive tuition is being charged.

        let’s be nit picky: why would administrators overlook maintenance of providing an education in their mission statement. yes, they don’t teach much to students, other than the hard and fast realities of what privatization does to an institution. but is it not their job to ensure that those educational missions are fulfilled by buffered from market forces that would otherwise neglect them?

  • ANEMI

    As a top tier UC student this logo reflects a stupidity. A modern look does not always mean its better. The older more prestigious emblem is better, and more suited to represent what students are about. I am not paying $9,000 a year to have a flushing toilet as an emblem. It does not even seem to be fully loaded yet.

  • http://www.facebook.com/arifyali Arif Ali

    As a student at UC Berkeley, I am outraged at the cheapness of the logo as well as the public unveiling of this around finals in an attempt to hope we don’t notice.

  • http://www.facebook.com/julian.ponce Julian Ponce

    I have two UC grad degrees and worked there 17 years. I do not like this at all. The faded lower tip of the “C” looks like a printing error.

  • Guest

    Did they use any taxpayer money or proceeds from tuition hikes to make this ugly new logo?

  • Samantha

    This makes me sad. Brushing away the book, they are brushing off learning and focusing on running the schools as a business. It is on the verge of embarrassing and surely will not increase their donations or applications as the symbol cheapen their image, it does not strengthen it.

    • scottbergen

      I too think the logo is blah. But they didn’t symbolically brush aside learning when they brushed the book out of the video. In fact, the book is the only image from the old logo that survived into the new one – it makes up the top edge of the big blue U-shape. I agree that it’s funny that their intent was to use this on, among other things, capital campaigns and fundraisers and their constituency hates it. Whoops.

  • Morgan

    As a UC student, I can tell you definitively that the logo change is unwelcome and, quite frankly, hated at my UC campus. When Stanford changed their logo a few weeks ago, we all laughed and yet here we are now… Maybe instead of wasting money on “rebranding” the UCs, why not invest your time and effort into lowering tuition or providing enough classes for students to graduate in 4 years?

    • Ray

      right, morgan! I think it’s so ridiculous that the university decided it’s okay to spend money to “rebrand” itself while it continues to cuts classes, worker’s wages, & scholarships in these tough economic times. It’s just plain unnecessary & unacceptable

      • http://twitter.com/JohnnyTracer1 JohnnyTracer

        as Bryan said I’m dazzled that some people can earn $4508 in one month on the cnetwork.

      • http://twitter.com/JohnnyTracer1 JohnnyTracer

        ….goo.gl/pSNIg (Click on Home)

    • IndianaJoes

      Agreed! I can’t stand how universities spend so much time and effort, not to mention money, trying to rebrand themselves. Making a quality education more affordable and more accessible should be the number one priority.

    • Matthew

      Agreed. This took me 10 minutes. They can have it for free.

  • lou

    boring

  • Matthew

    People need to see this video. It will change their perspective. It did for me.

    • CharlieM

      If people need a video to understand the logo… Doesn’t that mean that the logo is a failure? Isn’t a logo supposed to establish brand identity on first glance? I do agree that the video does establish their design intent… but because they had a solid thought process… doesn’t mean that the product of that process is equally as solid.

      • Matthew

        I agree Charlie. What do you think about this one. I made it in 10 minutes.

    • Mmahpeel

      The video reminds me of the endless ads created by major pharmaceuticals in recent years to pander their wares for incontinence, genital herpes etc. Definately a PR effort but one that fails on all accounts.

  • EternallyMe

    Fading into what? I am a UC grad, and I don’t like it.

  • Danielle

    I hate it. It looks like a community college, graphic design class project.

  • Kendy C

    I think that it’s lazy to change the logo instead of working around it. I find it sad that the designers of this logo were not creative enough to think of something more dignified. It is possible to bring a modern design while incorporating the school seal – I guess they just didn’t have enough imagination.

    There’s a real problem when ‘Let there be light.’ is represented by a bunch of diagonal lines.

  • zumajim

    It does resemble a flushing toilet, although they didn’t get the Coriolis effect right. Maybe this is the UC logo for extension campuses in the southern hemisphere.

    • Guest

      Coriolis effect does not apply to flushing toilets. To see it in action, you need to be at the scale of large weather systems. Even tornadoes are more strongly influenced by inertial than Coriolis forces.

      • zumajim

        Actually knew that. Just trying to have some additional fun at the logo’s expense.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1286038915 Ryan Lantrip

    Some idiot had a new Logo due, and was watching Youtube….. and then this piece of crap was born.

  • Tyler

    It looks like crap. How about spending money to reduce our tuition rates instead of spending it on a terrible logo? My fees are too high!

  • Pamela Beecher

    Does the fading C at the bottom symbolize disappearing funds for state schools?

    • Mark

      More likely disappearing relevancy.

    • Andrew Hawes

      it symbolizes the churning out of a never-ending supply of students. University fodder or “C”rap if you will.

  • oakmom

    With all the dire financial woes, why on earth this decision was made??? This is the VERY LAST THING they need to spend money on…!! And what about all the costs of printing everything that needs the logo?! And the cost of labor involved in updating all online materials? Disgusting waste of time and money.

  • disqus_BNjknOtbcH

    Why is it in UCLA’s colors and not Cal? UC did originate in Berkeley.

  • http://twitter.com/bocadelperro dogmouth

    For UC to waste money on this sort of thing a little over a month after prop 30 was passed is a slap in the face to all Californians. Trendy nonsense like this is the reason for the UCs’ (usually undeserved) reputation for frivolity.

  • Drew

    I thought the way that the book was swept away in the video was telling. Good thing they are sweeping away that old-fashioned learning stuff in this new era of business units and marketing. Education at universities is so passe in the 21st century.

  • Robin

    I understand the need for a logo that will work in all size and on all media, so the fact that they are creating a second logo to use is not a problem. However, this particular logo is devoid of any meaning — nothing about it says knowledge, education or research.

  • Mark

    The new logo is not horrifically bad but doesn’t seem to reference education. The same logo could be used by companies selling cheese puffs or that deliver packages by air freight. So, no awards for cleverness here.

    I agree with other posters that the University of California needs to focus on doing a better job of performing its mission. Until it does, cosmetic efforts to burnish the University’s image seem a little ironic. When an institution is so transparently on the wrong path drawing attention to itself may not be prudent.

    When the institution stops turning away California resident applications to accept students that are less qualified foreign nationals because those students pay more tuition… When the University reduces the many layers of administrators and passes the hundreds of millions of salary, benefit, and pension savings on to students in the form of lower fees… When the University stops raising tuition while, at the same time, providing pay increases to executive management personnel and educators who already enjoy compensation in hundreds of thousands… Then it might be the time to launch something that reflected a new and better image.

  • Justin

    This designer doesn’t have even a tiny clue how to design logos. You don’t use half-tones on top of spot colors because it is impossible to reproduce and looks terrible in nearly all media. I wish you many a printer strike.

  • Sheryl

    It looks like a flushing toilet… reminds me of my experience at UC Berkeley. Should have gone to MIT.

  • http://www.facebook.com/john.brownson.77 John Brownson

    My God, it think it’s awful! What does it mean? What image does it convey? To me, it just says, “Corporation Degrees For Sale”. What a sad falling off is this, that a once fine educational institution should advertise its front runner status, in the race to the bottom. It’s enough to make an educator- or an alumni- weep.

  • klie

    Original logo not reproducing well is a problem and brand does need to evolve.
    But adding a new logo does not really solved the first problem, not to mention, the new logo doesn’t really seems to communicate much. New problems: Which one is your logo? What is your identity??? What is the identity trying to say?

  • Pelagic10

    Wow. Why does this look like a pictogram I’d find on some brochure in the gynecologists office? Yikes.

    • Marcia

      That’s perfect!

  • http://www.facebook.com/CarolynRHiggins Carolyn Higgins

    As a UC Berkeley Alumnus and a Marketer I have to say this is hideous and totally misses the mark. What were they thinking? What message are they trying to send with this logo? It’s juvenile and (to use professional marketing jargon) totally “yucky”. Get rid of it!

  • Ricky

    As a UC alum, I can tell you that the branding is absolutely appropriate; the UC has been going down the toilet for a long time, and it’s about time the UC logo reflected where the UC system is. The fact that the UC wasted money on a rebranding venture is yet another indicator of their misplaced priorities.

  • debbie balfrey

    I don’t like the new logo at all….the disappearing “C” makes me think that California and the UC system are fading away.

  • Molly

    I feel like this logo makes us look like a terrible online college. This is an embarrassment, and it should most definitely not be used on a donation page! I would never donate to an institution that looks cheap and like it has no history or meaning. If they want to design a new logo, just make it look like UC in a circle with Let there be Light along the bottom, or circling the UC. This new logo is awful and definitely does not reflect the UC system.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ayanabaltripbalagas Ayana Baltrip Balagas

    The blue is wrong. The yellow is wrong. The typography is wrong (what typography?). As an alum, I’m dismayed and shocked. Sad, sad, sad. It seems that the design brief said: Throw out all tradition, and target tweens. I mean really!?! I’m having a really hard time seeing the process that was used here. This is not very constructive criticism, but I really don’t know what to say.

    How does a design that communicates nothing in regard to form and context meet their stated goals of: “charismatic,” embodying “both the relevance and rootedness of the university.” Really? Where does it do this? How does it do this?

  • MJ

    As a donor, they’re not getting another dime out of me as long as this insulting logo remains.

  • Sheridan

    As an alumna and employee at UC Berkeley I detest this ridiculous and undoubtedly hugely expensive attempt at rebranding. It corresponds with the direction the University has been changing: over the last decade or so it has been transforming itself into a Corporation, rather than a University. I keep hoping there will be enough protest to reverse this transformation from a citadel of learning to a competitive business entity. Maybe this new logo will finally wake up enough people so the leaders will have to step back and see how they are destroying the finest educational institution in the world. The original seal has dignity and honor, the new ‘logo’ trades the last 150 years of distinction for a symbol no different than the trinket of small internet startup. It is insulting to all Californians, and sickening to those of use who have been a part of UC.

  • eok

    Awful logo. The design fails at nearly every level. Guess this is what you get after decades of underfunding the arts.

  • Doc

    This could have been really good! If the font used for the letter “u” was the same thickness as the “c”, and the design formed a less-than-buttocks appearance it.

    I thought it resembled a child in a womb…

  • jnm

    I am a graphic designer, specialized in logos, and see some interesting approach here, but it’s not resolved in proportion, form and color. Has anyone yet tried to make a black & white photocopy to see how this comes out, in different sizes, on different copy machines? You might be surprised (I didn’t try yet), it might look like a worm in a glass or…

  • Jack

    I am a graphic designer specialized in logo design: This is an interesting first approach, but not convincing so far in form, proportion and color. Has anybody tried to make a black & white photo copy in different sizes? Try different copy machines, some are blind on certain colors. You might be surprises about the result, possibly looking like a worm in a glass… Also, what kind of typography will go with it, and layout? Just placing a new logo somewhere won’t do the job.

  • Marcia

    Horrid! I’m also a UC alum and sure hope they didn’t use any alumni $ to develop this!

  • Martelier

    Toilet. Definitely. It’s too immature and lacks the gravitas of a prestigious academic institution. I loved the old logo. As a prospective UC student this makes me feel like my time is better spent elsewhere. I appreciate their cutesy video but I think this logo is going to look so dated in 3 years. Anyway, it looks like it should be an elementary school logo. The roundness of the C’s ends make it look almost Comic-Sansy which is, most graphic designers would probably agree, a fate worse than death.

  • Granite666

    You know what would have been fun? Instead of a team of executives drawing the new logo, they should have turned to the thousands of marketing and design students the university has. They would have come up with something much better than something drawn by a fourth grader (they even “used” markers in the video). You could have had students vote system wide on the new logo, with the voters truly having the pulse of the times.

  • cgaileyucr

    Definitely captures the corporate university intention: They’re flushing public university education down the toilet.

  • Bob

    Hideous. Definitely looks like a toilet flushing. As a UC graduate and employee I am horrified.

  • Jenny

    You are going with that, on purpose? Seems a huge waste of money and not a positive image.

  • Grace

    What I see from this logo is the University of California being flushed down the toilet. It’s such an embarrassment to those of us in California who supported and believed in the University. This shakes my confidence in the UC system big time. Earth shattering, shocking incompetence. :(

  • Ken Y
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1818332976 Julian Taylor

    pottyheads!

  • jody Salem

    the new logo is dreadful………. like a throw back to the late 70s . please don’t disrespect the longstanding identity that is rich in history . and the thought of useing both identities is absurd

  • Boss Nick Ross

    I swear I’ll burn my diploma if this becomes our new emblem

  • Frank

    Logo is suitable for some 0.99 cent iphone app, not a prestigious University.

  • http://www.facebook.com/patricia.moore.378 Patricia Moore

    As a graduate in 1960, I find this change totally unnecessary and even offensive. Where is the role of tradition? It is totally ugly and devoid of any reference to the University!

  • http://www.facebook.com/andrew.beierle Andrew W. M. Beierle
  • ddj

    why does the UC have internal designers and creatives? Is there any potential universe where the UC can do better branding/marking then the hundreds of top-notch private firms in the media capital of the world? Of course the people who drew this crayon-level design think it is great. That’s why they are doing branding for a non-branding company. For that, they should all be summarily fired, the department closed, and any future rebranding outsourced to a high-level firm that does this sort of thing for, oh, major television networks or something like that. This thing doesn’t even pass the seriousness test. It won’t last a month. The UC’s branding should be something along the lines of traditionally, excellent education. Colleges in general are branded with ‘tradition.’ This abomination suggests some attempt at flavor of the week, twitter-based branding. A yellow smiley face with a heart around it would be more professional. Branding firms would be wise to note those quoted to ensure that they never hired them. Truly shocking to this family of alums.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=77001270 Rich Wang

    This change perfectly encapsulates the insular thinking and the vacuum of creative thought that plagues the leadership of the UC system. It is ugly as hell, but in a way it is perfect.

  • Ib Crow

    sucks. anyone know how much this thing costed? (ucsc-philo99)

  • Craig

    Graphically horrid.

  • Merideth

    As an alumna, I am offended by the new logo. I was the first person in my family to go to college and I value my time at Cal as a highly personal accomplishment. I have always felt deeply about the sense of tradition on the campus and this new Facebook-ish logo is an affront to that tradition.

  • Jim

    “Rootedness”?!?!?!? I thought this was a university, not a middle school.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Lilith-Anderson/100000563170864 Lilith Anderson

    Videoe of Logo as a flushing toilet.

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