When the general public became aware that a new UC monogram had been launched to represent the University of California and its ten campuses, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Carolyn Jones contacted me for an opinion.
Both Angie and I earned degrees from the University of California: Angie has a degree in Japanese from UC Berkeley, and I have a degree in Fine Arts from UCLA. As alumni of the UC system, the new monogram represented us—as well as hundreds of thousands of other alumni, current students, and faculty.
While I understand that the University of California needs a new symbol separate from its historic “seal,” the proposed monogram was not the appropriate solution. Branding statements or strategy documents become moot when the resulting visual identity doesn’t accurately reflect the company or institution, or “speaks” in the wrong “voice.”
The pedagogic approach of the Graphic Design department at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco where we teach is predicated on the idea of critique. Work is judged, publicly. I encourage my students to ask the following questions so that they can determine for themselves the merits of their work. For example:
Who is the audience?
What is the intended message?
Is it the right message?
How successfully does the piece communicate the intended message?
What elements contribute to the piece’s successful communication?
What elements detract from it?
Are there unintended messages?
The San Francisco Chronicle article ran on the front page on Tuesday, December 11, 2012. My comments were offered from the perspective of an instructor who believes that informed, perceptive critique can only sharpen—and thus benefit—the practice of graphic design in our culture. My quotes from the article are below. [MF]
Mark Fox, a graphic design professor at California College of the Arts who designed that school’s logo and has done work for UC in the past, panned the new effort.
“The visual language is generic, commercial and utterly forgettable,” he said. “It is a complete mismatch for the university’s history and reputation. (It) has no visual or conceptual gravitas.”
A good logo should be distinct and memorable, create positive associations, reflect well on the company and work easily and inexpensively in all media, he said.
“The new UC logo,” Fox said, “fails in most of the above criteria.”
The entire article by Carolyn Jones can be found here. Three days after the article ran the University of California withdrew its support for the new symbol.