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?