University of Rochester

A New Logo for Rochester?

Rochester’s vice president for communications talks about the process for designing a new graphic identity for the University.

One of President Seligman’s first actions as the University’s top executive was to explore how the University communicates its stature and ambitions with the outside world.

As part of an external review of the University’s communications efforts, Seligman noted in particular that Rochester lacks consistency in how it uses its identifying materials—that is, its logo and the supporting materials for the use of it—across a range of publications and other places where the logo may appear.

Bill Murphy, vice president for communications, is leading a University-wide initiative to develop a new graphic identity, beginning with the creation of a new logo.

Murphy spoke with Rochester Review about the importance of a common University identity, the progress of the initiative, and why URBee is here to stay.

We have a University logo. What’s wrong with it?
Theoretically I don’t know that there is anything wrong with the current logo, but we’ve had the empirical experience that people don’t use it. Our goal is to come up with a logo that people across the University would use and a process that would encourage them to adopt it wholeheartedly.

Do most people know what the current logo is? Would you help sort that out?
I think there has been some confusion—and there often is at universities. We have a University logo and a University seal and people sometimes think the seal is the logo. The seal is used in formal, official applications, as on diplomas. At Rochester, as at other universities, we’ve gotten into a situation in which the seal appears on T-shirts, pennants, drinking cups, and other items where a logo would be more appropriate.

How did you go about generating ideas for the University logo?
We began by bringing together a representative group and doing our homework. We looked at past expressions of the University’s name in typography and in carvings on buildings, at icons the University has used, and at what our peer institutions are doing. We didn’t want to be slavishly imitative but it was helpful to get a sense of whether there was any commonality to that group.

Can you describe how your experiences at other institutions helped craft the plan you’re using to develop a new logo for the University?
I learned that it’s much more effective to give people something to react to visually than it is to ask them to articulate up front what they want to see in a logo. If you give people concrete things to react to, not only will they know what they like and don’t like, and what they think is true to the institution and what’s not, but they also will exhibit or imply some of the standards they have for making those decisions. By having a dialogue about some concrete examples, the values will surface.

What values surfaced when you showed the logos to groups around campus?
They really wanted a sense of belonging, of fitting in with our peer institutions. They clearly wanted something that was classic rather than wildly innovative. They wanted something traditional and evocative of a world-class research institution.

Will the University colors change?
The University colors will remain dandelion yellow and Rochester blue. We may slightly modify the shade of blue to make it have more impact, but I would not expect a dramatic change.

Will this affect the athletic logos?
Our teams are called the Yellowjackets, and fans of URBee need not worry. The colors we use for the University logo will grow closer to those used by athletics. That kind of overlap is very important for reinforcement. But obviously athletics needs a different look and feel from the more formal academic sides of the University.

Why should alumni care about this graphic identity initiative?
Alumni should care about the overall effort to improve the communications program at the University. If we are successful in raising our visibility and reinforcing the image of the University as a world-class research institution, we will be successful in enhancing the value of our degrees. That’s one of the reasons why students should be invested as well. In addition to that, I think everyone likes to be proud of his or her own alma mater, and one of the vehicles that can play into that pride is the way the University is portrayed graphically.

Will alumni have a chance to voice their opinions?
Yes, we’re very enthusiastically seeking alumni opinion. We’ve set up a Web page to showcase the different logo choices and we’re asking alumni to register their opinions, either by selecting a favorite or by commenting on the choices.

When do you anticipate a new logo will be adopted?
Based on the feedback we collect throughout the spring, we hope to have a new logo selected by the end of the calendar year.