A Student's Reaction to the New UNC System Logo

A few days ago, the UNC System unveiled a new logo as the public, multi-campus university of North Carolina. As a student and a design enthusiast, I wanted to share my reaction to the newest symbol that represents the System and each of its 17 institutions.

The Sticker Price

One of the most common reactions to this rebranding is “why are they spending $250,000 on a new logo?”. Even though the initial cost is shocking, I think this question fails to recognize the purpose of design and further perpetuates the devaluation of art and graphic design. The price is not as important as the purpose and the question we should be asking is “does this logo do its job?”. The work of designers is not easily quantifiable, therefore, we should respect the value they create with a discerning eye and an understanding of good design. I am pleased to know that student fees did not directly go towards this rebranding. Instead, it was mostly funded by private donations which I believe should be allocated as President Spellings and the Board of Governors sees fit.

Additionally, the price did not include just the creation of a logo, it was a rebranding of all materials, an updated and functional website, and vision for future years. This requires work, skill, and value that only quality designers can provide. It is an undeniable fact that this rebranding creates value for the UNC System and that should be reflected in the price we pay for good design.

The Nuance of Design

The new UNC System logo does not require a large amount of technical skill to reproduce. It is minimal, subtle, and follows most of the trends in modern design. Simple logos that can be easily replicated are a sign of good design. The logo’s simplicity is a virtue that allows it to be flexible and recognizable on a variety of materials and media.

The 17 points that comprise the state of North Carolina are clever way to symbolize our diverse and individual institutions that come together as a system to do incredible things. Once a month, incredible students from each of these 17 campuses congregate at one school in the system as the Association of Student Governments. During these meetings, we share ideas, draft solutions, advocate for students, and help create a greater sense of purpose and identity between these distinct institutions. We will be undergoing our own logo redesign to complement the UNC System and hopefully we can create an image that conveys our drive, innovation, and passion.

The Potential for Versatility

The most important element of a design is how it is used and implemented to fulfill the job that was outlined by the client. President Spellings and the Board of Governors wanted a fresh look that would signify a transformation for the system. A rebranding campaign is the perfect way to renew an institution and let go of past expectations. We are turning a new page through both administration and now our branding, our outward messaging, is doing the same.

A majority of new logos are faced with resistance and people are naturally hesitant to accept change. A good logo needs time to mature and develop its identity and purpose as it is used in practice. Hopefully it will usher in “a new era of higher expectations from our students, taxpayers and nation” as Spellings states but we won’t know for sure until we give it time to integrate with our current infrastructure. At this point, we just need to wait and see.

And for the Problem...

Students were not a part of the process. During the entire rebranding, students were not asked for any feedback or advice and I believe the system missed out on a great opportunity to include us in the process. The UNC system has a nationally recognized professional arts conservatory and has multiple design schools so there are many qualified, passionate students who would have been willing to provide input during this process. As students, our voice is important and we need to be included in these discussions. Next time, let us pull up a seat at the table and take ownership of the system at a state level.

Written by Meredith Biechele; Senior Mechanical Engineering Major at North Carolina State University. Biechele is the Vice President of Campus Outreach for the 46th Session of the UNC Association of Student Governments, NC State Chancellor's Aide, intern for Paradigm Innovation- a design strategy consulting agency and will work as a product design engineer for John Deere upon graduation. Her long-term aspirations include finding a way to balance her technical skills in engineering with her passion for leadership and government.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of The University of North Carolina or The University of North Carolina Association of Student Governments.

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