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28 October 2014

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Student Life

Student in front of a university logo
Thumbs up or down for the new logo

UB or not UB?

What’s in a logo change and who cares anyway? Well when the logo is The University of Birmingham’s historic crest, the students do. Andrew Silke from the university's newspaper Redbrick reports from the campus.

We’re confused – yes students and staff alike – and the reason? a botched roll-out of the University’s new “corporate image”.

Students look at the uni. logo
Students rally around the crest

Frustrated students turned to the internet to make their protest - with an online petition that received over 1,500 signatures in just 24 hours.

Rob Sleath who designed the petition website said: “We say NO to the change in logo design. We love our logo and all it represents”.

A bound copy of the petition, which to date includes almost 5,000 signatures, will be delivered to Marketing Services.

But the scale of protest, combined with pressure from local and national media reports, has already turned the cogs of the University public relations machine.

Official talk

Students John Gorski and Matt Munro
John and Matt in front of new logo

“We managed to save money by building the brand launch into the standard cycle of renewal.

"The downside is that the launch takes place over a full year. Unfortunately, for some it looks like it has come in surreptitiously,” said David Hall, the University’s Academic Registrar.

The crest continues

The university has quelled fears that the 100 year old University coat of arms would be scrapped completely. The traditional crest will continue to appear on formal University stationary, degree certificates and the like, but the crest will be replaced elsewhere.

Mr Hall and Ms Primmer look at a university crest
David Hall & Sue Primmer look at an old uni. crest

“We are privileging the traditional crest – we’re demonstrating that the crest is something valuable, something important,” said Mr Hall.

“Branding will come and go, and the ‘UB’ design itself will have a shelf-life. But the crest is permanent,” added Sue Primmer, the University’s Director of Communications.

Myths about cost

Re-branding has cost the University £320,000 over two years. A lot of money – but this is compared to an annual budget for the University of £330million.

Students sceptical

Despite strong opposition, bosses at the university made it clear that no amount of public protest would stop the overhaul.

UB device
The new UB device

“The brutal fact is that if all 30,000 students sign the petition, we’re still going to go down this path,” said Mr Hall.

Ms Primmer defended the rebrand. “Our research showed that Birmingham was seen as dull, ponderous, and trading off past glories. We had to address that,” she said.

We're not a poly

The Director of Communications was also keen to answer protestors’ most common concern – that the new “UB device” makes the University look like a polytechnic.

“I think it’s a matter of self-confidence,…. Of course we want to keep clear blue water between polys and Birmingham, but polytechnics are feisty, aggressive institutions……I don’t think we should too complacent to acknowledge that we have something to learn from polys.”

Following the protestors’ lead, the University has created a dedicated website to answer common questions and explain the new design. The University is hoping that by providing extra information it will help uncover more common ground.

What they say:

Sophie Kennard (Nursing, Year I):

Student Verity Baker
I think the logo's tacky and ugly, says Verity

“I feel there is nothing wrong with modernising the university's image, but I don’t feel that the logo chosen says enough about The University of Birmingham and all it stands for.”

Verity Baker (Political Science, Year III):

“Typical of this university - profit and marketing is put before all else; history, tradition, aesthetics. Everyone I have spoken to considers this foul logo to be tacky, ugly and unnecessary.”

Thomas Anderson, Geography (Year 1):

“I think the rebranded image is great. I know most people think the UB is wack, but I think it’s cutting edge – it’s modern, fresh, and it reflects the student community. Joe Chamberlain [one of the University’s founders] would have loved it!”

Kay Alexander (former student, now Midlands Today presenter):

“I received the latest edition of University news, and didn't know what it was. So the rebranding doesn't reflect ownership. UB certainly doesn't say ‘University of Birmingham’.

“I like the university crest. It is a badge of historic pride, and gives the university an image of quality, tradition, stability, and integrity.

“However.....I do think a bit more style and perhaps a degree of excitement would be a good thing, and it's a pity that the rebranding wasn't able to incorporate both those and the crest. What has been done doesn't appeal to me at all, because it's too big, and still doesn't say what it is. First impressions are important, and mine was one of bewilderment. Sorry".

Ellie Crisell (former student, now Newsround presenter):

“I think it's important to move with the times, but I prefer the old crest. Perhaps that is me being nostalgic, but I think the old crest conveys the University's historic image and reputation more effectively than the new logos”.

Chris Tarrant (former student, now TV and Radio Presenter)

"I have to say I’m not very impressed by the new look of Brum University. It is a great old university – one of the originals – and the new image doesn’t reflect that history at all. It simply lines it up with the rest of the new pack of jumped up polytechnics."

Nic Fasci (former MG Rover engineer now working for the Gov. Vehicle Certification Agency):

“This new logo degrades the image of the University in the eyes of the business world. This is marketing gone mad”.

Report by Andrew Silke, reporter for Redbrick (B'ham University's official newspaper)

last updated: 07/06/05
Have Your Say
Do you think the university was right to rebrand?
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i think its completly wrong to change it to. what wasa wrong with the old logo anyway?

malcolm ryman
completely wrong to do so,why throw away over a century of achievement for the sake of some marketeers idea of "image"

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