USC has a new logo. The thing is, it fails to reflect the beauty of the history of USC and should have taken advantage of student creativity.
The old university logo depicted the gates of the horseshoe, a symbol of the traditional elegance of USC. While the gates and the palmetto tree will still be featured on the university’s letterhead, the new primary logo features a clunky lettering of UofSC in a garnet block. It’s unoriginal and mundane. For a school with so many good resources and a rich history, the depiction seems almost laughable.
The saddest thing of all about this logo is that the university didn’t tap into student creativity to create the design.
USC has a thriving School of Visual Art and Design from which it can draw talent. Each year there is a competition in the senior graphic design classes to design the cover of the next year’s first-year reading experience, so why didn’t they allow the marketing or graphic design departments to pitch ideas for the new logo and rebranding?
The reason the university went with this logo is to change the school’s abbreviation so that it is no longer confused with the University of Southern California. That big of an identity change shouldn’t be executed through logo art. Changing the logo first is a top-down approach that is being mandated, and it faces so much opposition because it conflicts with how students and alumni see and refer to USC.
Moreover, this new logo relies too much on the Office of Communications and Public Affairs to give it meaning. The letters UofSC mean nothing on their own and reveal nothing to new students or people that don’t know the prestige of the university. Where the previous logo symbolized an important part of USC’s history, the UofSC logo represents nothing about the school except the name.
Because the logo normally will appear near the full name of the university, it will end up seeming redundant as well. The only purpose the new logo succeeds in is reiterating that the school now wants to be known as UofSC rather than USC.
Branding can certainly be used to change the image of a brand in the minds of an audience, but it's generally done more subtly. USC has been called USC by the student body for time out of mind now. The new logo comes into sharp contrast with the previous identity. Instead of trying to force the student body to stop calling the university USC through a logo change, the university needs to make people proud of the moniker UofSC. While a branding change could have been a part of this process, introducing a bland block of text as the new logo — before making sure the audience will accept it and be proud of it — is not the way to change the university’s identity.
To make the name change, the university should promote student pride in the name UofSC rather than USC. That would happen more effectively through an initiative that promotes student involvement and investment in the revamped branding. This approach would let students feel more attached to the UofSC name, because they would associate it with what they love about the university.
A social media campaign or student events that encourage students to say why they are proud of UofSC could prove effective. Bringing more focus to how outstanding UofSC is would make the shift of abbreviation more palatable than changing it across the board form the start. Just like in high school: you don’t get to pick your nicknames, you have to earn them.