Eduvation Blog

Branding Misfires I: 2015-2017

Ken Steele starts reviewing the 12 higher ed rebrands of the past 2 years that caused outrage and opposition among faculty, students and alumni. Odds of a backlash are 10% overall, 20% at universities (4-year colleges), 0% at community colleges — and 50% at arts institutes!

This week, 5 disastrous rebrands that pretty much deserved what they got. 3 of them were overly ambitious, taking bold and daring approaches. Let’s take ten and take heed!

Loughborough University (UK):

A well-ranked public research university founded in 1909, that launched a hot pink octagon “LU” logo in 2015. (Yikes!) A protest petition gathered 13,000 signatures — 76% of the school’s enrolment! The administration backed down and 5 months later unveiled a much more conventional coat of arms approach.

Loughborough U Year in Review
How to Make the LU Logo on Photoshop

Emerson College (MA):

This liberal arts college focuses on communications, media and arts programs. In April 2016 Emerson proudly unveiled a preliminary new identity that featured a large, hand-drawn purple “e”. A student leaked a photo on social media, and sparked immediate protest of the “glorified scribble” that looked like “a breast cancer ribbon.” Lee Pelton, the college president, compared misperceptions to the presidential primaries. But a year later, Emerson is still using its former logo.

Emerson Reacts to New School Logo

Ravensbourne College (UK):

In 2010, this arts institute launched a radical new identity that shattered the word “Ravensbourne” into 3 fragments, based on the anodized aluminum tiles that covered its new purpose-built building. Students protested, but the logo stayed for 6 years. Finally, in June 2016, Ravensbourne unveiled a much more professional logo, using a flexible “container” for student art. (Like the 2011 brand identity for OCAD University.) The latest Ravensbourne logo sparked some mockery, but the designers embraced the satire.

Ravensbourne Brand Film


Other redesigns are so uninspired they spark well-deserved opposition, too.

IE University (Spain):

The Instituto de Empresa (“Business School”) is an open university teaching business programs across Spain. The original monogram and olive branch had become streamlined to the point of absurdity, so in 2016 the institution launched a new, totally bland logo. Students complained that it lowered the reputation of their institution, but the new identity continues to be used.

We are IE: Reinventing Higher Education

Quinnipiac University (CT):

When this institution abandoned its elegant small-caps wordmark for a funky, 1970s-style logo, students protested the lack of a capital on “university.” The “capitalize this!” campaign got media attention across North America, accusing the university of making a grammatical error in its new identity. After months of protest, the administration backed down and revised the logo, to include the word “University” in all caps. (They pretended the student protest had no effect).

Q30 #THAT 9/13/16
Whenever a university opts for a less-formal brand identity, it’s likely to spark outrage. All the more reason that your concept needs to be creative, your typography professional, and your design polished.

Next time: we’ll look at 7 brand redesigns that sparked a backlash whether they deserved it or not!

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