Two new logos proposed as part of a comprehensive branding of the University of Hawai`i system have meet with mostly jeers since they were unveiled last week. Developed by a Mainland company at a cost of $82,000, the logos dubbed “Wave” and “Spectrum” were intended to convey “East Meets West.” But many students, faculty and local residents are seeing red instead, an online petition gathering over 1,300 signatures so far from people calling for the proposed designs to be scrapped entirely.
Critics charge that not only do the logos fail to convey both the prestige and history of the university, but also that sending the design contract out of state sent the wrong message. While some agreed that the university needs a stronger identity, the designs have frequently been compared to hotel or surf shop logos, and most critics are adamant that Hawai`i designers and design students had more than enough talent to tackle the job.
UH President Evan Dobelle has been criticized in the past for directing several administration jobs and contracts to former colleagues and companies on the East Coast.
But the Maryland-based “creative communications firm” behind the designs, Robert Rytter & Associates, is standing behind its work, saying in a statement: “”We believe the two final designs are fine marks to represent the University going forward. We believe in the future of the University of Hawai`i.”
The awarding of the contract was announced late last year, and meetings were held on every campus in January to present and gather input on the proposed UH system logo designs. Nonetheless, the formal rollout last Wednesday was apparently the first many had heard of it.
The petition was posted online late Saturday and urged the University to use its traditional, formal seal as a system logo instead. By this evening had accumulated 1,352 signatures. Students and alumni, faculty members, and Hawai`i residents signed the petition, many including extensive comments.
“As someone who works in the design/advertising field here in Hawai`i, I find it highly odious that non Hawai`i-based design companies were even considered for the logo design,” wrote Mel Matsuoka, co-founder of Madskill Productions, a graphic and video design company.
“There are dozens and dozens of talented designers in Hawai`i that could have easily created something much more compelling and appropriate to the the spirit of Hawai`i and the University system,” Matsuoka continued. “And certainly for much less than the $82,000 bounty that will now be going to the mainland, instead of staying in Hawai`i to enrich the local design industry.”
Joseph Morgan, associate professor of geography, was one of the first to sign the petition. “The money spent on the design of these really bad logos could have been more usefully spent for curriculum purposes,” he wrote. “One bad logo, [the one] used by the Athletic Department, is enough for our university.”
The petition is unofficial and impossible to verify, however, and a UH official pointed out to the Star-Bulletin that someone had signed the petition as Dobelle.
The university also stressed that a request for proposals was issued to nearly two dozen companies, and 14 design firms from several states responded half of them from Hawai`i. Local bidders’ proposals ranged from $463,000 to $17,000.
In an online message addressed to Hawai`i residents, Robert Rytter tackled the question of why his firm was awarded the contract.
“We were awarded the graphic design project for UH because we had a stronger proposal and deeper experience than our competition, not because the graphic designers of Hawai`i are not great, or up to the task,” Rytter wrote. “There are many great designers in Hawai`i.”
The comprehensive branding project was prompted by a report by The Brand Strategy Group, which found that there were over 150 different logos in use throughout the university system. The report also found that some university programs didn’t properly disclose their university affiliation.
The UH web page where the logo proposals are posted has logged over 5,800 visitors, and university officials say they have received over 1,000 e-mails through the special address firstname.lastname@example.org created to collect comments from the public.
After the comment period ends Friday night, the collected messages will be sorted and reviewed by a special committee, which will then make a recommendation to the Board of Regents at its meeting next month.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Mel Matsuoka’s company.