Penn State

New Penn State Nittany Lion logo prompts protest petition

The newly-revealed Penn State shield logo has some Nittany Lions roaring in protest.

A Change.org petition, started shortly after the university unveiled the updated version of the symbol, pleads with the Office of Strategic Communications to “restore Penn State’s traditional academic logo.”

The basic elements of the symbol are the same. Shield, Nittany Lion shrine image, the university’s name.

It’s the tweaks that are upsetting the opposition. Instead of the not-quite-navy blue of the athletic uniforms and other official representations, the color seems lighter and brighter. The shadows on the lion’s face are another shade of almost sky blue. The lion itself, seen from a different angle than before, focusing on the statue’s face filling the shield without the 1855 founding date, has been criticized as cartoonish. The font is changed to a stockier type.

“We understand an updated logo is needed to translate better for today’s digital world, but the new logo fails to capture Penn State’s traditional colors, prestigious feel and iconic lion,” wrote Doug Albert, a 1995 graduate, in his petition. “Our original logo symbolizes a brand that thousands of students and alumni rallied around during trying times — that logo made us feel Penn State Proud. The new logo does not represent our heritage in the same way.”

Vice President for Strategic Communications Lawrence Lokman said that change was made to make the logo more accessible for new technology like social media.

“It doesn’t translate well digitally,” he told a trustee committee in May.

On Wednesday, he spoke to the idea of the protests, saying he understood that while his office hoped everyone would like the redesign, it would take time to get used to the change.

“This is to be expected given our diverse and passionate Penn State family. We value everyone’s opinions and feelings. Nevertheless, this was needed and we are confident that initial criticism will dissipate with its use over time. When the current shield and lion was introduced, it too received criticism, which is natural,” Lokman said.

He also addressed the need for the logo to provide cohesiveness across the university’s many colleges, schools, departments, campuses and even the new Penn State Health enterprise. The old logo made that difficult, but the new one was constructed to allow that connection.

But what about that color change? Call it an optical illusion.

Lokman said the shade actually has not changed, but does read differently on some screens, and in some of the material that was seen in images leaked on the Internet before the university released them officially.

“The dark blue is the same color, though now includes a lighter blue shadow in the mark,” he said. “But the basic color remains the same. I can see how that generated confusion, and it would be great to correct it.”

But then there’s the issue of cost.

“We understand not everyone will agree on a new design, however, it is unacceptable that the (u)niversity spent $128,000 while never asking the public opinions of the two most important groups — the students and alumni. We ask that the logo is redesigned to better represent our traditional logo and the students and alumni are offered the opportunity to cast our vote,” Albert’s petition stated.

Lokman said that doing it in-house, with students or staff or via a contest, was just not feasible.

“Penn State is a major university, and designing an effective identity system that can be utilized through web, print and broadcast environments and meets the University’s needs requires specialists like the ones we hired,” he said. You can’t do that through a popular competition. That is why you don’t see major enterprises do that. While we do have extraordinarily talented students and community members, a project of this type really requires experts who have years of experience in this area.”

The designer of the new logo, Jerry Kuyper Partners, has done similar “visual identity systems” for the World Wildlife Fund, AT&T and others.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, the petition had garnered 856 supporters.

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