Wright State rejects new logo, keeps Wilbur

6:21 p.m Thursday, March 17, 2016 News

Wright State University President David Hopkins says the school is scrapping a new logo that was unveiled last month for reasons that included “a number of deficiencies in the design.”

The university said Thursday that it will keep its current logo after considering feedback from community members, faculty, staff and students.

The proposed logo change — which included removing Wilbur Wright and color changes — was part of a larger rebranding effort the university launched in 2014.

Steve Gabbard, associate brand manager at Wright State, said that during the feedback process some said the logo looked too similar to logos used by Rumpke Waste & Recycling and Intel.

“The Wright Brothers connection was required,” Gabbard said. “People couldn’t imagine a logo without it.”

Hopkins sent an email to faculty and staff this week announcing the decision, but did not go into detail about why the new logo was rejected.

“Last month, we released recommended changes for campus review and input. That review has highlighted a number of deficiencies in the design,” Hopkins wrote. “At this point, the logo change is suspended and the branding effort will continue.”

Gabbard said the university initially removed the image of Wilbur next to the Wright Flyer because “it looked like someone missed the plane.”

He said that while the university won’t change its logo, it will move forward with rebranding its message.

“We have a great message and we’re going to work to get that message out,” Gabbard said. “We’re increasingly competing in an environment without increased students (due to population stagnation). And we’re not the first choice among as many students (as we would be) if our message could get out there.

“This is about branding, not the logo.”

Gabbard said WSU’s goal is to increase enrollment; each student contributes at least $10,000 to the school. Last fall’s enrollment was 18,059, according to the university’s website.

WSU paid Florida-based YorkBranding $250,000 over the past year — with the majority going toward the design of the logo. In total, the university has spent around $850,000 on its branding effort, Gabbard said.

Despite opting to keep the logo it launched nearly two decades ago, university officials say funds paid to YorkBranding were worth the cost.

“What we got (by going through the vetting process) is an affirmation that the current logo should stand with the new branding message. So we spent the money with diligence,” Gabbard said.

Martin Kich, a professor and president of Wright State’s faculty union, says he’s not sure the logo and the branding expenses are necessary.

“Even if you wanted to track how effective this branding campaign is, even if enrollment jumps, how would you know it came from the branding campaign?” Kich said. “At a time when the university is facing fiscal constraints, maybe it’s a luxury we can’t afford.”

Hopkins wrote in his email that the university spent six months conducting surveys, focus groups and interviews with “our faculty, staff, students, alumni, high school guidance counselors, employers, media, and students who applied but did not attend even after being accepted to our university.”

From those discussions, YorkBranding designed the logo that was presented to the university trustees. After the February presentation, school officials presented the logo to the faculty senate and other campus groups before deciding to keep the old logo.

“In the simplest of terms, a brand is not a logo. A brand is not a tagline,” Hopkins wrote this week. “One way to think of our brand is as our reputation. Another is what our aspirations are both for ourselves and those we serve.

“Our job, collectively, is to make sure that through our actions, our reputation reflects our great work and our vision.”

Staff writer Josh Sweigart contributed to this report.

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