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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Past, present and future of the logo

    When Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. announced a few weeks ago that the new logo would be a shield, he described it as a symbol of strength. But, as the logo slowly becomes familiar to people, words like “ugly” and “old-fashioned” seem to come up quite often in conversations inside and outside of the campus.

    “A shield is an old-fashioned way of depicting a college identity,” Milton Glaser, the graphic artist who designed SBU’s previous logo, said. “One of the things I try to avoid when designing identity for young professional colleges is using imagery that basically comes from another era.”

    The logo is part of a larger new branding project that aims to signify a transformation period at the school, but critics are skeptical at how effective and appropriate the change is.

    Glaser, famous for his “I LOVE NY” logo and a long-time friend of former SBU President Shirley Kenny, designed the previous logo for free. He turned the three O’s in “STONY BROOK” into colorful circles with a cluster of stars and rays inside them.

    SBU’s new mark though — a red shield featuring a few rays and only one star — did not come for free. The university hired Alabama-based Lewis Communications to do the work. Physics department Professor Fred Goldhaber said the change was not necessary.

    “What [Glaser] gave us for free was a lot better than what we got for money from Alabama,” Goldhaber said. “I think we got a very inferior product.”

    In his State of the University Senate speech earlier this month, University Senate President Fred M. Walter spoke against the new design and said President Stanley should not have hired a company from outside of Long Island.

    “The president has told us, as recently as our December meeting, that University funding had been cut by $82 million, and consequently we need to rein in all unnecessary spending,” Walter said, who is also an astronomy professor. “What does it cost to hire an outside consultant to think up a new logo? Is this necessary spending? The president has told us that the university is the economic engine of Long Island. Why was it deemed necessary to hire a firm from Alabama to do design work that surely could have been done locally?” Walter said.

    The cost of designing the logo was built into a fee structure funded by the Stony Brook Foundation, university officials said.

    Lewis Communications has had “an ongoing relationship” with SBU for more than four years, according to Carlton Wood, the company’s account supervisor. Wood said the agency wanted to take elements of the old logo and simplify it so it would be easier to reproduce on the Internet and in small sizes.

    “We wanted to make the logo translate well online and the old logo had been created at a time when web-based communications weren’t critical,” Wood said. “That’s why we came with a much more simplified and clean approach to the logo.”

    The shield is the mark of many traditional universities and is the basic logo for all Ivy League members. Michael Kamins, the head of the marketing program and director of research for the College of Business at SBU, said the new shield “places us in good company,” but it “may not distinguish us” from other schools.

    SBU administrators seem to be pleased with the change. Assistant Vice President of Communication Yvette St. Jacques said the old logo was not representative of who “we are now.” When Glaser designed the old logo, she said, SBU was very young.

    Because the university recently received the biggest donation in its history — $150 million from James and Marilyn Simons and the Simons Foundation in Dec. 2011 — and it is now a member of the Association of American Universities, a well-respected organization of research universities like Harvard, Yale and Stanford, SBU is in a very different position than it was 15 years ago, St. Jacques said.

    “The shield puts us in a league of excellence,” she said.

    The new branding initiative includes the integration of the hospital, major health clinic and programs and the five health science schools — Dental Medicine, Health Technology and Management, Medicine, Nursing and Social Welfare — into one name: Stony Brook Medicine.

    Goldhaber and Walter both said they also did not like the way the new branding process took place. Walter said the current administration has a habit of making decisions “behind closed doors.”

    President Stanley announced the change was about to be made and asked for feedback through an email sent to the campus community. A week later, he sent another email saying the feedback had been “overwhelmingly positive” and that the shield would become the new mark for both the university and the medical enterprise.

    Goldhaber said that was not how it should have been done. He said there was not enough time for the campus community to participate in the process.

    “This was not an open process. This was just done and they told us, and it basically surprised most people,” Walter said. “I look at this and say, we have a lot of talented students on this campus. Why don’t we make it a contest? Say, ‘We’re going to rebrand the university, so let’s come up with a logo.’ This is the type of thing you do to build school spirit.”

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