The UC admissions site features elements of the UC visual identity system.
The University of California seal isn't going anywhere. It will continue to grace diplomas and other official UC documents, just as it has for most of the university's long and storied history.
Jason Simon, marketing communications director at UC's Office of the President, issued that reassurance as debate continued over a small monogram that appears on many of the university's systemwide Web pages, as well as its marketing and communication materials.
"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."
Individual campuses will also continue using their own seals and other visual identifiers. None of that changes.
In fact, the monogram that is suddenly causing so much talk isn't anything new. It's been in wide use for about a year and was developed as part of a larger public outreach strategy to connect Californians with all the ways that UC touches their lives.
The Onward California campaign and mobile tour has reached tens of thousands of people with its message. Stops included visits to all 10 campuses. Students, staff and faculty came out to talk about UC's value to the state and to their own lives. Visitors filled out postcards with heart-felt messages about the value of higher education and adorned themselves with temporary tattoos of the colorful monogram.
A small team of UCOP designers did the work in-house, Simon said, and the campus community was consulted throughout the development process. Consultation included discussions with an array of campus, parent and alumni audiences. Communications leadership from each campus was involved in reviewing design ideas but also in suggesting broader outreach strategies to build greater awareness and understanding of the university system.
UC's Office of the President first began using the new look when it redesigned UC's admissions site in late 2011. The new approach includes the monogram and a full range of related elements, among them photography from across UC's 10 campuses, new typography and a color palette with varying hues of blue and yellow.
Over the last week, media stories have left many in the UC community with the impression that the monogram is new and that UC plans to use it interchangeably with the seal. Cries of "bring back the old logo," have spread across social media sites.
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.
"There's nothing to ‘bring back,' Simon said. "Before we developed the monogram and other elements, there wasn't a visually recognizable identity that represented the whole UC system. Our communications materials were a complete hodge-podge.
"UC is a multifaceted system that touches the lives of people in every part of the state with inventions, medical research, hospital care and agricultural initiatives. We needed a way to convey that."
Admittedly, reaction to the monogram has been intense. Julia Lupton, interim chair of the English Department at UC Irvine and a close observer of brand and design issues, is among those who hopes UC will stay the course.
"The new logo itself is elegant, thoughtful, and totally in keeping with contemporary brand practices," Lupton said. "It is really unfortunate that rage and uncertainty over the future of our system and state is being displaced onto the new logo, which many associate with the ‘corporate' and ‘privatizing' tendencies. But in making these quick identifications, people are failing to see the role that intelligent, systematic, and (yes) stylish branding and design can play in successful advocacy as well as community formation."
Love the new monogram or hate it, Simon hopes more people start to get the real story. He and others are listening to all the feedback and take the community's reaction seriously.
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.
"We are continually assessing whether the visual identity supports our ongoing campaign to make Californians aware of the many ways that the UC system of campuses, medical centers, research operations, agriculture services affects the lives of people in every part of the state."