Warriner Hall logo more distinctive

I've been intrigued by the discussion taking place in CM Life about the new university logo. Rich Morrison, Public Relations senior officer, was quoted as saying that the former Warriner logo "wasn't particularly distinctive," and that the new effort was designed "to position the university graphically."

I only recently returned to Mount Pleasant after two years abroad, and have not seen the other 24 variations of the new logo that were presented to President Rao, but I tend to agree with Student Government Association Sen. Steve Latour that the new logo is "not very impressive." In fact, it makes the university's "Flying C" look darn good by comparison.

A quick online survey of other Michigan university logos in instructive. MSU uses typographic mark with the word "University" smaller and below. (The large, green "S" is its athletic logo.) U of M uses a large, yellow block cap "M," with a picture of "Old Main" on the splash pages. Western uses a "WMU" wordmark with the name spelled out below, while Northern has a logo side-by-side with the words. None of these institutions has a logo as elegant as the Warriner logo.

The perceived problems with the "old" Central logo, the fact the word "University" was too small, for example, could be easily remedied. As a representation of a medium-size, land-grant university, the picture of Warriner was certainly more distinctive than maroon and gold caps. Many institutions similar to Central use images of "Old Main" in their logos. And the notion that a university is know primarily by its acronym usually bespeaks serious regional myopia. People from another part of the county often use the same initials that, long before domain names, were already a source of confusion to those from afar. Whether you choose Carnegie Mellon or Central Missouri, it is all the same.

Paul Rand (IBM) and Saul Bass (AT&T) probably used market surveys, both formal and informal, while developing their famous marks. But market research is no substitute for design savvy (in fact, many times clients must be gently overruled for their own good). Here I part with suggestions that the logo needs to be designed by public consensus. A community forum can only accomplish so much. Every student with a passing knowledge of Illustrator will think herself worthy where thousands of dollars are at sake. But ultimately, the job should be left to the professionals who design logos for a living.

The temptation to change an institutions' symbolic representation is great whenever there is a dramatic change of administration. But such temptations should be strongly resisted until there is a clear and pressing need for improvement, and a mark to match the new vision.


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