Editorial In-the-Loop: Simple Logo?

Refreshed logo brings controversy

Many students are less than excited about Whitworth’s refreshed branding.

To be fair, Whitworth students would probably be resistant to any new logo, regardless of design. Change is hard, and rebranding is rarely met with anything but dismay and a sense of stolen identity. Students and staff are used to seeing the old logo everywhere: on the front of the podium in the RTT, where every student endures Core; on the Whitworth website; on documents, and eventually diplomas. Any new design is a replacement of that, and it takes time to get used to.

However, there have been some significant and valid complaints about the rebranded logo.

In the last week the editorial board has heard the new logo described as looking like: strips of bacon, Barad-dûr (the Lord Sauron’s dark tower from “The Lord of the Rings”), the logo of “The Witcher 3” video game, the Skrillex logo, claw slashes from Wolverine and “just three red lines.” The design is certainly abstract.

It’s not too simple, but it’s not too ‘busy.’ I like it.”

— Anonymous survey response

The problem with the abstract branding is that it expects far too much of its audience. The red lines in the logo are meant to form a “W.” That works if you already know what to look for. The space surrounding the middle pillar is supposed to be a “U.” Which works if, again, you know what you’re looking for, and sort of squint at it. The three pillars of the logo are also intended to bring to the viewer’s mind Whitworth’s iconic pine trees and the Holy Trinity. The pillars, according to the brand guidelines, also pay homage to the torch from previous logos.

Even if the audience is somehow able to glean all this information from three lines, they have to get past the numerous other logos and items brought to mind, because of how abstract and unspecific to Whitworth the design seems to be.

I like the modernity of the new logo, esp. the new font, but there is a classic, more traditional feel to the old logo that the new one does not represent.”

— Anonymous survey response

The logo assumes the audience will understand the several different meanings intended. The old logo, a seal with a torch and a book, conveys a sense of academia, even if the audience is not familiar with the logo or Whitworth. The new design does not indicate that it represents a university; it requires prior knowledge of the Whitworth and the meanings of the logo for it to have significance. On its own, there is nothing concrete to connect the logo to Whitworth or its values.

We also must question what this choice in branding means for the message of Whitworth University.

Branding does not only include a logo. It also includes new designs for documents and media, slogans and mission statements. All this can be found in the Brand Guidelines, published Sept. 7, which can be found online. The manifesto of this document begins with the statement, “We’re not your typical Christian university.”

The use of this language indicates to us that being a non-typical Christian University is good. The phrasing in the manifesto implies the branding is trying to be, for lack of a better word, edgy.

I really, really, really want the previous logo on my diploma.”

— Anonymous survey response

There are some benefits to having an abstract design. It is very clean and modern, which could be considered a failing of the old design. There was clearly a great deal of thought and consideration put into the rebranding. The intentions behind the design, like representing Whitworth’s Christian roots and encapsulating its values in a simple design, were admirable.

However, modern things don’t stay modern for long. It is the concern of this editorial board that the attempt to create a logo that captures Whitworth’s essence was too focused on modernizing, exciting and simplifying.

While we recognize the desire to bring Whitworth into a more digitally focused age and refocus the logo on the Christian mission, this refreshed logo lack some of the traditional elements that people associate with Whitworth. The Whitworth community will likely grow fonder of the refreshed logo, but it will take some time to find the “W” and the “U” in the red lines.