David Bultena: UC logo a doughnut on a kickboard?

December 13, 2012 

The article in Wednesday's Sun-Star about the new University of California logo is a must-read for anyone who has a modicum of common sense and a sense of humor (Page A-2).

It seems that after 144 years, the university has seen fit to relegate its time-honored seal to an academic attic in favor of a newer and more modern logo.

The new logo was developed by an in-house team to give a new look to the UC image.

Why?

Well, supposedly, the new image is sexier than the old one. People, so the theory goes, will respond to something abstract and will quickly respect what the logo or image stands for.

There was nothing wrong with the old seal, and it has served California well. It is self-explanatory, it gave a picture of what the UC was all about with the open book, the star of enlightenment, the name of the university prominently displayed and the motto "Let there be light" at the bottom.

The only change the seal has suffered is that the original motto "Fiat Lux" was dumbed down from its original Latin and translated to "Let there be light" to accommodate those who did not have a UC education.

But the change isn't as significant as the reason for it. The article quoted Dianne Klein of the UC Office of the President as saying the new logo was "more modern, user friendly."

She went on to say that the details of the original seal did not lend themselves to digital reproduction or when reproduced in small spaces.

Sounds like an excuse to "go modern" when such a move would compromise a well-established California icon.

User friendly? No way! The old logo gave the reader instant information. The new logo needs all sorts of explanation. A view of the original seal created a stately image of the UC system without any need for an explanation.

A look at the new logo, on the other hand, creates an image of a partially eaten doughnut resting on a swimmer's kickboard. How anyone in the Office of the President can believe this is superior to the original is beyond me.

It may well catch the eye of Californians, but for unintended reasons.

People may ask what was wrong with the old seal, why can't the new seal stand alone without an explanation, why does the Office of the President waste its time on such a change when change is not needed?

Image is important, no doubt about that, but the effort should go into making a UC education more affordable and not into doing a makeover where none is needed.

If one of the reasons for the new logo was "to show how relevant the university is to the state," the change was a waste of time since real relevancy comes from eliminating financial obstacles to a UC education, not the creation of an ambiguous insignia.

Bultena is a retired Merced County deputy district attorney.

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