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Margin Notes

New University of Waterloo logo goes viral

Proposed new logo stirs online debate, parodies, Facebook groups and more.


A new logo for the University of Waterloo, created as part of a larger rebranding effort, was not scheduled to make its first official appearance until the fall, and yet is has already created quite a stir. It is an object lesson in the power and peril of social networking.

According to a summary of the events here, the new logo appears to have been accidentally leaked on or about July 15. Within days it was all over the Internet via Twitter (hash tags #uwlogo and #uwlogogate), which in turn led to the creation of a Facebook group by “students and alumni against the new University of Waterloo logo.” By the end of last week, the Facebook group had some 5,000 members. The story was also picked up by the Financial Post Executive Blog.

The reviews coming in from students and some alumni and faculty were strongly negative, if not sophomoric. The logo inspired video parodies (here) and an online poll (with 90 percent preferring the old logo versus 10 percent for the new).

The university responded with an article in the online University of Waterloo Bulletin this past Friday explaining the history behind the university branding effort and an explanation of the logo design.

The article quotes Meg Beckel, vice-president, external relations:

“After 131 iterations,” Beckel says, “we came up with the new market-oriented identity system – the new logo, wordmark, font, the use of coloured lines that will help to represent the faculties. We reviewed these elements with the same key audiences, and overwhelmingly the response was positive, although there were a few dissenting voices.”

“We will begin to share the new visual identity system with campus groups now, in preparation for a reveal and story in the November issue of Waterloo Magazine. This process is key to getting feedback to the design direction, language and implications.” A town hall meeting to be held later in October will be open to all. The “hard” launch of the identity system will “happen throughout 2010 to give us time to roll it out incrementally and cost-effectively.”

Ms. Beckel was also featured in a university-produced video again patiently explaining the process and rationale behind the rebranding effort.

For my part, I think the student reaction was of the knee-jerk variety, with what seemed to me little reflection or mature analysis. It all had the sense of “isn’t this fun! Let’s get the administration!”

The students could legitimately argue that they had no opportunity to offer their feedback in an official manner. However, the carefully planned, orderly process for the unveiling of the rebranding effort was short-circuited by the leaked logo.

And, yes, I do like the new logo. I think it’s bold and interesting. I second the Brand New blogger, who writes:  “Dear Waterloo-people-in-charge: Stick to your plan. Don’t succumb.”

What’s your view?

Léo Charbonneau
Léo Charbonneau is the editor of University Affairs.
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  1. James / July 27, 2009 at 10:10

    This is the problem with some of media that has been directed towards the entire campaign (for lack of a better word). The obviously take the points they want to, showing a “wee bit” of bias for leaving out other points.

    When reading your article, and when you spoke directly about the facebook group, calling “the student reaction was of the knee-jerk variety, with what seemed to me little reflection or mature analysis.”

    Have you actually taken a look at the group? I’m just wondering, because you may have just glanced at it, saw the pictures people have submitted, and made your article based strictly on that. Don’t get me wrong, some of the pictures are very funny, and some are clever. But mature? No.

    If you go into the discussion boards, there are many well founded, thought out, civil arguments. Take a look. People actually form coherent sentences with information to back it up. Crazy, yes? Seems a lot less knee-jerk when people take the time to write up short story length responses when they could be participating in other activities of little to no maturity.

    The posts and responses we’ve been receiving really show the students have put much thought and deliberation when forming their arguments.

    Obviously I’m biased in this entire cause, but when you make some statements that could be at best half truths, it really shows which team you are swinging for. But then again, I actually have a stake when it comes to The University of Waterloo.

  2. Jesse Rodgers / July 27, 2009 at 10:14

    I think one point you are missing, Waterloo students rarely speak up in such an organized way. They rarely show interest in the institution as they are here for 4 months and working somewhere else for another 4. This is much different than anything I have seen at UW in 9 years.

  3. Mang / July 27, 2009 at 11:24

    I agree that the group dynamics have changed. It seems like the majority of students in the group is now there to simply ridicule the logo. The band wagon effect is apparent and
    I have left that Facebook group for this reason. Yes, humour and immaturity can bring people together, but it isn’t productive. Hopefully, this rebranding issue will increase student awareness about other issues on campus as well.

  4. Scott / July 27, 2009 at 11:50

    The new logo is not appropriate for an institution, and more importantly we had no say to this change. All we student is asking where is our say?

  5. Daniel Bigham / July 27, 2009 at 12:19

    I think it looks spiffy. My gut reaction was positive.

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