Monday, July 16, 2007

College Seal Rebirth

In a email sent at 5:55PM on Monday, July 16th, VP of Communications Mike McKenna effectively retracted the new Middlebury leaf logo opting instead for the cleaned up college seal that reads "Scientia et Virtus." The student Facebook group rallying against the new logo simply reads: "VICTORY." One student writes, "I would like to raise a virtual glass of champagne to everyone!" The leaf logo will instead be reserved for the new capital campaign -- about as far from current undergrads as possible. Middlebury's website, the most visible sign of Middlebury to the undergraduates, has yet to be updated. McKenna writes:

Because there has been such a positive response to, and support for, the College’s slightly revised and modernized academic seal (below), we have decided that we will now use our Latin seal (“SCIENTIA ET VIRTUS” or “KNOWLEDGE AND VIRTUE”) as Middlebury's official logo. This means that the seal will continue to be used at official academic and presidential events as it has been for years, but will also become the symbol used on College stationery, business cards, and assorted College materials. As planned, the panther will continue to be the logo for our athletic teams.
Wow. This is a VERY surprising move from the Communications Office which clearly was hauled in to Old Chapel several times in the past week. While undergrad students certainly can claim victory, I would suggest that there were some other factors at play that pushed this over the edge. The fact that there is big money on the line certainly helped too. Some big names also likely called in to make this happen. Very rarely does the administration so suddenly back down from such a strategic move.

EDIT: The Graphic Identity page has also yet to be updated. Also, I was a little harsh before. The College Seal (now capitalized to reflect its newfound stature) is a clear choice and winner here because it won over the hearts and minds of people everywhere...

EDIT 2: Maybe this whole debacle will make students actually remember the motto on the College Seal: “SCIENTIA ET VIRTUS” or “KNOWLEDGE AND VIRTUE” -- yea, when you graduate, remember that instead of "Tiny Bubbles...."


Hallie said...

in classical latin "virtus" means something along the lines of "manliness" or "heroic virtue" - not the sort of thing you learn in church. i'm amused that that's the kind of virtue we have on our seal...

Mike said...

Hi MiddBlog,

Thanks for your overall very good coverage of the graphic identity project.

Wanted to alert people that we are in the process of creating high resolution version of the seal, so it may be a couple of days until it appears on the College Web site. Patience will be appreciated.

Also wanted to address some of your comments in your latest posting, which seemed to veer into the realm of NY Post Page Six!

To use your phrase, I haven’t been “hauled” anywhere since I was in kindergarten, certainly not to Old Chapel. I weigh too much for one thing. But since you are musing, thought you might appreciate a scoop.

This is how the decision to use the seal was made.

Frankly, the debate caught me a little off guard because for the past year I had really been looking at this fundamentally as a stationery design project.

While aware a Facebook group had been formed, and the number of members was growing daily, that wasn’t as compelling to me as the notes I received from members of the community. Although I did not agree with all the points being made, I could not ignore the genuine care and concern people felt.

However, I must admit I did not feel much empathy and thought it would blow over.

That was until Friday when I was driving to Boston for my first Red Sox game of the year.

I used to work at Fenway Park when I was a kid and love the Sox. Somewhere around Rochester, VT, where all the radio and cell connections disappear, I got to thinking.

In the 1970’s the Red Sox changed their uniforms to red hats and blue visors. I really hated the way they looked. Ted Williams never wore a red hat.

I used to work with a creative director in New York who had a wonderful phrase: creativity is when logic turns into magic. Well at that moment I started to think creatively.

I finally understood that people saw the new logo the way I saw the Sox red hats. Empathy finally kicked in.

So I pulled off the road in Bethel, as soon as my Blackberry got service again, and contacted Ron and told him how I was thinking about using the seal.

He wrote back and said he was already on the same page. Minus the Red Sox part of course.

We agreed to think about it over the weekend. And yesterday, Monday, we shared the idea with colleagues on the President’s Staff. We talked about it during the day. From the start, we all felt good about the “seal as logo” idea. I wrote the memo you got last night, and that was it.

So there was no hauling. No outside donors calling up. Nothing that dramatic.

Anyway, that’s that, and we go from here.

Do have a couple of things I would like to share before I close and head off to Cape Cod for summer vacation.

First, I want to say how great it is working with the Chermayeff & Geismar design firm. They are consummate professionals, and Middlebury is incredibly fortunate to be working with them. They certainly don’t need any kind of kudos from me. But I wanted to give them a public thank you anyway.

Second, in the first emails I got some fairly inconsiderate and unkind things were written. When I responded, I unfailingly got much more polite and reasoned debate. It made me wonder if sometimes, in the internet age, people think they are posting to chat room instead of writing to a real person.

People may want to remember that next time they fire off an angry response to someone. When you hit send you don’t get a do over. In a community of learning, I would hope civil discourse would be the norm. As our discussions proceeded, that was clearly the case, and I appreciated it. Anyway, no harm, no foul.

Finally, sorry to anyone who has already purchased a bulk order of T shirts in anticipation of making a killing in September. From what I understand, there were some hilarious ones. If already printed, I would love to have one.

That’s it. Have a great summer, and remember, we’ll get the Web site corrected as soon as possible.

Mike McKenna

on the books...