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UC drops controversial new logo

The University of California, responding to criticism from alumni and students, will suspend further use of the logo and continue using the century-old seal.

December 15, 2012|By Larry Gordon, Los Angeles Times
  • Critics of the new University of California logo, right, say it looks like the loading symbol for a computer operating system. They worry that the new logo could hurt the system's reputation.
Critics of the new University of California logo, right, say it looks like… (Associated Press )

The new University of California logo is a no-go.

Responding to a wave of revulsion in the last week over the symbol's modern design, officials announced Friday that they would suspend further use of the logo and remove it where possible.

"While I believe the design element in question would win wide acceptance over time, it also is important that we listen to and respect what has been a significant negative response by students, alumni and other members of our community," Daniel M. Dooley, UC's senior vice president for external relations, said in a statement.

Opponents had complained that the large "U" — which surrounded a fading "C" — was ugly, incomprehensible and made the university seem like a crass PR machine. They lobbied for the restoration of UC's century-old seal, with its "Let There Be Light" motto, a drawing of an open book and the 1868 date of the system's founding.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a voting member of the UC Board of Regents, had joined that chorus — as did whoever tweets for Gov. Jerry Brown's dog, Sutter.

"Awesome victory," wrote one contributor to a Facebook petition formed to oppose the logo. "For once in government, common sense prevailed," another petitioner wrote Friday.

Tomo Hirai, a 2010 UC Davis graduate, had mocked the new logo by posting his own online version with a spinning "C" — resembling a computer operating system that was endlessly stalled. On Friday, he said he was surprised by UC's retreat. "In my four years at UC, it was really hard to get the administration to listen to anything the students wanted," he said. So the reversal, he said, "was pleasant news."

Dooley defended the contemporary logo, which was designed by an in-house team and started appearing six months ago. Critics had latched onto "an unfortunate and false narrative, which framed the matter as an either-or choice between a venerated UC seal and a newly designed monogram," he said. The graphic would not have replaced the official seal on diplomas or official letterhead, but was meant to bring a more modern look to websites and publications in UC's fundraising, recruiting and public affairs campaigns. The symbol was accompanied by the text "University of California," a fact its critics ignored, officials complained.

But the controversial logo will not disappear immediately. The changeover has begun on websites, although the modern graphic will remain on paper materials already printed and those in production. The change "is not going to happen overnight. It's not like we can flip a switch," said Jason Simon, the UC system's director of marketing communication.

Simon said that though he was disappointed by the negative reaction to the logo, "it was time to move on" and focus on more important issues facing the 10-campus university system.

UC has not decided what the next step will be: designing a new logo, expanding use of the traditional seal or, Simon said, coming up with a compromise that freshens the old seal in ways that "honor our traditions and the past and also the amazing and incredible innovations that are happening on our campuses every day."

Cinthia Flores, a UC Irvine law student who is designated to become the student regent on the system's governing board next year, said she thought Friday's decision was "the appropriate thing to do, especially given how much attention the logo brought in such a short time." One positive outcome, she said, was that the debate showed how students and alumni "identify very closely with the UC system and what it represents for their lives."

larry.gordon@latimes.com

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