Did you get used to the Penn State logo of the Nittany Lion prowling over the 1855 on a dark blue shield? Get ready for a change.
The university unveiled Tuesday the final product of a refresh for the almost 30-year-old logo, refreshing its academic visual identity, which was created in the late 1980s and is often referred to as the university mark. Though it has served the university well, the original mark was developed in the pre-digital era and its poor reproduction in Web, social media and video environments has diminished its use and led to a proliferation of inconsistent designs to represent Penn State.
At a trustees meeting in May, Vice President for Strategic Communications Lawrence Lokman said that the symbol was not quite doing its job in a world where the university has dozens of Twitter accounts that incorporate it into thumbnail avatars for social media.
“It doesn’t translate well digitally,” he said.
Jerry Kuyper Partners worked with a group of university stakeholders to develop an updated logo.
Jordan Rednor, co-founder and partner of Protagonist LLC, a New York brand strategy and advertising agency, thinks it was a good move.
“I think it’s important to any enterprise to have a fresh image,” he said. “I think that any corporate icon or imagery needs to be looked at in the context of the technology where its being used.”
He compared the shift to companies adjusting their brands as television took over from radio.
“Obviously with digital being such an important part of the public’s perception and viewing of a brand identity it’s important that it be contemporary and live comfortably in those spaces,” Rednor said. “It hadn’t been addressed in a long time. As with any brand over the years, it begins to get a little unruly and a little disorganized. A refresh was appropriate.”
“I am excited to see us moving forward with an updated visual identity that connects our rich tradition with a bright future,” said Penn State President Eric Barron. “The 1980s version of the mark incorporated important elements of who we are as a (u)niversity, but had presented usage challenges for some time. The updated version is a strong representation of Penn Staters’ excellence, passion and innovation.”
The new logo is a softer blue. The date is gone. The lion is no longer a small but full length view of the iconic shrine sculpture, but a view of the head from a different, more prominent angle.
“The refreshed version provides an opportunity to increase the visibility of Penn State while evolving the tradition of the Lion Shrine that Penn Staters hold dear,” said Lokman. “We have a strong and vibrant university, and a bold and contemporary visual identity system is an investment that will support the university’s reputational, recruitment and resource development efforts.”
As an alumus, Rednor agrees.
“It’s more than sentiment. It’s a question of whether the logo really helps to communicate the strength of the university as a world class institution, and the lion in particular, which is an icon we all respect and love,” he said. “It’s nice to see the lion take a more prominent position in the shield and reflect a position of strength. I’m very pleased with the logo and what I would call its evolution.”
But not everyone agrees.
On social media, there are voices of support, but many who are resisting the change. Some critics attacked the lion drawing as being “cartoonish.” Others thought it made the symbol seem more like a sports mascot than a university symbol.
“Not all change is good,” said one commenter.