Branding Universities Ain’t Easy, Boston Magazine Demonstrates

The May issue of Boston features a cautionary tale for would-be designers of university logos. In the wake of Boston University’s logo update and Northeastern’s imminent rebranding, the magazine asked six Boston design firms to try their hands at new logos for a few other institutions: Harvard, MIT, and Boston College. The results? [shakes head, crinkled eyes cast downward] Well, let’s look at a couple of examples:
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From Monderer Design comes the above crack at updating the Harvard logo, which was criticized for its ornate, difficult-to-reproduce crest. The new logo (at top right) may streamline the laurel leaves into jaunty sprouts but then shirks the symmetry for a shield that we initially hoped was a clever allusion to Harvard-affiliated MacLean Hospital, a pioneer in schizophrenia research. In fact, firm principal Stewart Monderer‘s says that “the sans serif ‘H’ visually balances the three books….signif[ying] a more modern, more connected school, while retaining its historical elements.” More connected, you say?

Meanwhile, Alphabet Arm Design gives MIT’s six-year-old logo a new look with the help of “a lighter-weight typeface to add a dynamic feel,” but we’d fear that the update (at bottom right) would spark a Da Vinci Code-level search for significance in the distracting handling of the letter i’s dot. Boston notes that upon interviewing MIT alumni about the original mark, Alphabet Arm Design was told, “MIT is a school full of nerds. The squarish logo kinda fits that mold.”