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UC suspends new logo after widespread protest

New UC Logo

The University of California's old seal, left, will remain on official university documents, but marketing materials and websites will feature the radically simple and more contemporary symbol on the right. AP photo

By
From page A7 | December 16, 2012 |

Farewell to the banana sticker.

The University of California on Friday announced it has abandoned its new logo after nearly 55,000 people signed a petition saying the logo was overly corporate, resembled — among other things — a fruit label and did not sufficiently reflect the university’s prestige.

“It is important that we listen to and respect what has been a significant negative response by students, alumni and other members of our community,” Daniel Dooley, senior vice president for external affairs, said in a statement. “This controversy has created a major distraction.”

The logo, a block “C” nestled in a U-shaped silhouette, sparked widespread mockery when news reports brought it to light last week. Some said it resembled a bidet, a kickboard or a logo for an Internet startup. “Looks like it’s still loading,” wrote a Berkeley woman on the online petition.

The university has withdrawn the logo from its website and will no longer use it on printed materials, although items already emblazoned with the logo will not be discarded, said UC spokesman Steve Montiel.

Students and alumni said they felt vindicated the logo has gone the way of New Coke.

“It’s good that UC is listening to us,” said Connor Landgraf, student body president at UC Berkeley. “Hopefully they’ll start listening to students on other issues, as well, such as tuition increases.”

Alumni didn’t like it

Jefferson Coombs, director of the UC Berkeley alumni association, said alumni were pretty much united in their dislike of the new logo.

“I’m pleased UC listened to the prevailing and really unified voice of alumni,” he said. “Alumni are extremely proud of the university’s legacy of excellence, and this logo did not reflect that.”

The UC Office of the President’s marketing department created the logo about six months ago as a way to promote the entire organization, which includes 10 campuses, five medical centers and dozens of laboratories and research centers, to a wide spectrum of Californians at a time when the Legislature was preparing another round of funding cuts, Montiel said.

The university also needed a logo that would reproduce clearly on smartphones and iPads, the preferred communication mode of prospective students, he said.

The logo was never intended to replace the old logo, the classic “Let There Be Light” seal that’s adorned diplomas, letterhead, coffee mugs and other UC items for more than a century.

Although, that logo might be even more corporate than the new moniker, said Sam Redman, a historian at UC Berkeley’s Regional Oral History Office at the Bancroft Library.

The original seal was designed by Tiffany & Co., he noted. The formal, detailed design was modeled after the crests of the great universities of Europe, as a way to elevate UC’s image at a time when its reputation didn’t extend far beyond the Sierra.

Notably conservative

Newly opened colleges across the country were adopting similar seals, but even among those the University of California’s is notably conservative and traditional, he said. It shows an open book illuminated by a shining star, underscored with the words “Let There Be Light.”

The seal was introduced in 1895, when the university was less than 30 years old. It’s also been modified a few times, most notably when officials changed the original Latin from “Fiat Lux” to the English equivalent.

Redman sympathizes with the university’s desire to update its image occasionally, especially now in the digital age and the fact the university encompasses so much more than a single land-grant campus in the East Bay.

“In 1895, they were trying to establish a formal, recognizable identity, easily replicated with a set piece on an old printer,” he said. “They weren’t anticipating that it would someday go on T-shirts and Twitter.”

Still, the old logo remains immensely popular. If it ain’t broke, they should leave it be, he said.

“Even after all these years, the old logo still looks fantastic,” he said. “It’s part of our past, our origins, and who we are today. It really doesn’t need to be adjusted at all.”

— Carolyn Jones is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Reach her at carolynjones@sfchronicle.com.

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