When edgy branding reaches the edge

When Canada’s University of Waterloo’s unveiled it’s new brand identity was leaked, students revolted to the only place where they know to scream — Facebook — arguing the new identity doesn’t befit a proud, venerable institution of higher education.

From their Facebook group:

The University of Waterloo is undergoing a rebranding campaign starting in Fall 2009. The new logo has been leaked, and we, along with many other students and alumni, do not believe it represents UW’s prestige and degree of professionalism properly. This group is a place for students and alumni who are against this new logo representing our University to join and voice their opinion.

Please note these new logos will (according to reports) replace the current UW logos in all applications, with the exception of diplomas and convocation ceremonies (where the official seal is used instead).

The logo design blog Brand New covered this issue and I’m not going to attempt to rehash his good analysis.

But the hoopla over the logo ignores the fact that the re-brand — even if it’s a bit jarring to look at — is really edgy. And in the staid world of higher ed design, I can appreciate some thinking outside of the box and given the logo was leaked, we’re not even sure what the entire campaign was intended to communicate, so how can those protesting it, really assess it on its merits?

Then again, why should we let an opportunity to protest get in the way of a little fairness? Though I wonder if there was any token student representation as part of this process…

Messages in a hypersocial world

A group of youth interacting
Image via Wikipedia

These days, everyone thinks they’ve got a million friends. It’s not until you spend some time with people who spend little time using digital media that folks like me who are uber digital begin to recall a time when our social networks were much smaller and recall how much work goes into cultivating personal relationships and managing to sustain them amidst a barrage of information.

The bottom line: It sure takes a lot of work to build relationships and maintain them.

The social web gives us an uncanny opportunity to put a barrage of information out for the world to see and lets people decide how much (or little) they want to consume. We make the assumption that most people are able to sift through it successfully and thus, we’re offended when they’re not as responsive as we’d like to what we deem as important that either gets lost in the grand shuffle of noise.

It leads to people trying to develop new ways to “get their message out” when really, what’s needed is to:

1. Sharpen our focus
2. Distill the noise out
3. Narrow the audience

Making it easier for our audiences to really listen to what’s being said, I find it’s almost better to say less than to say more, even as the urge exists (as well as the mediums) to overshare.

The Ghost of student media future

Student Life (newspaper)
Image via Wikipedia

College newspapers are boring.

There, I said it.

In an era where professional journalism is going belly up, their subsidized college counterparts are plodding along on a course that lacks any sort of innovation, willingness to experiment or ability to leverage the tools of the social web to reinvent the way we present and report the news.


  • Is it just a lack of resources?
  • Internal expertise?
  • A desire to maintain the status quo?
  • All of the above?
  • Ernie Smith is a genius, but why didn’t a college student come up with the idea to create ShortFormBlog?

    I could speculate all day on this. The reporting in student publications is as it was. Some fantastic, the rest is what it is. But I’m really talking about the delivery of student news content. In a world where it’s cheaper than it ever was to publish on the web and easier than ever, what’s the excuse for doing the same old things we’ve always done? College Publisher might have been a great idea back in 2001, but is ceding control of your entire design a really good idea in an age where better options abound?

    This is a personal issue for me, naturally. I spent a few years in student media during my college days, owned an independent internet radio station after college (that was staffed entirely by students) and spent a summer at a major newspaper watching first-hand how “big media” works. I’ve always been convinced there were really daring things we could, especially using the web and even on the backend to lower the barriers to entry for small publications looking to deliver content via the web.

    I’m convinced that some institution out there is on the cusp of pushing the envelope, that some innovative group sees the opportunity to start a bushfire that spreads across the entire field, by simply deciding to do something completely outside of the box. There’s no one-sized fits all answer for this, either. But someone will have to step out first, before others will join the Joneses in the pool.

    Who will it be?

    ESPN explores social media and college sports

    ESPN has the first of a four-part series this week on college athletics and the social web. Today’s article is about Twitter and Facebook and how it’s changing the way that coaches recruit.

    Here’s an excerpt:

    Tim Beckman sees it a different way. The first-year Toledo football coach has been using Twitter — @coachbeckman — as a way to connect with recruits and to try to keep local and in-state players’ minds on the Rockets.

    Beckman likened Twitter to Alabama coach Nick Saban’s use of videoconferencing with recruits. It’s a way to push the envelope and get an edge without actually breaking NCAA rules.

    “I’ve been around this business my whole life with my dad being a coach, so I know how important the recruiting is and getting quality players that you bring into your program,” Beckman said. “We’re not able to communicate with them as much as we’d all like to be able to communicate, so you’ve got to find ways to do it. And Twitter just happens to be a way that [Toledo] came to me about, so each day I learn more and more about it. It’s not that I know everything about it, but it’s something I think we need to explore.”

    Beckman said he tries to tweet on a schedule to make sure it’s always current. He sends one as he’s leaving the house for work, another around lunchtime and then one toward the end of the day. Unlike several other coaches who use Twitter to talk about goings-on in their personal lives, Beckman said he likes to keep the focus on promoting his team and enticing recruits to come to Toledo.

    How many of these coaches do we think are actually doing their own tweets?

    What’s a Master’s Degree worth?

    1919 in music
    Image via Wikipedia

    More blowing bubbles on the value of a Master’s Degree on the New York Times “Room For Debate” blog.

    Degree inflation increasingly obliges more degrees to compensate for the devaluation of earlier degrees. Jobs that once were filled by high school graduates and later by college graduates today often require a master’s degree. This is largely optical, but one deals with the world he or she lives in. Still, just as the double and triple undergraduate major is a form of gilding the lily, a form of product enhancement, meant to seduce the hiring partner or the human resources director, the growing interest in the M.A. reveals the inadequacy of the baccalaureate.

    In a bad job market does it make sense for students to seek a safe harbor and earn a master’s degree? Absolutely: if they can afford it; if the debt from their previous academic work is not too great; if someone else is paying; if they seek to reinvent themselves. If, if …

    Universities are, after all, wonderful, magical places, and learning something new is the greatest of pleasures. My friend married his fiancé, never used his M.A. degree in any professional way but had the satisfaction and joy of having read a great deal of French literature at somebody else’s expense. What is so bad about that?

    Stephen Joel Trachtenberg is president emeritus and professor of public services at the George Washington University. He is also chairman of the Higher Education Practice at Korn Ferry International.

    There are other comments, of course, that are worth checking out. But the consensus seems to be: “Sure, as long as you don’t pay for it. But you’ll probably never use it. Maybe.”