Why is Pomona’s logo important? Maybe it’s not. Certainly topics such as the election, the Gaza crisis or even recent publications regarding our philosophy department may be more deserving of 500 words. Still, this logo-replacement idea seems to leave many of my friends—and me—a little upset, or at least confused. Sure, maybe it’s because Pomona students are adverse to a major image change of any sort. But my guess is that in a neoliberal world where, unfortunately, our logo is our brand, we students get concerned with something that misrepresents us. A perfect logo isn’t necessary, but we are unsettled by a bad one. And that’s exactly what this proposed new college mark is: a bad one.
The College Logo Advisory Group, composed of various administrators and professors, advises the Senior Director of Communications and President Oxtoby on “possible future strategies for the College’s standard logo and/or wordmark.” The group’s Final Report states that Pomona’s current book and rainbow logo “no longer adequately represents the institution.” Okay, let’s play that game. I’d say the current rainbow design embodies what it means to be a student here. The subtle transition from book to rainbow artfully captures Pomona’s unique dynamic: Our serious intellectual inquiry and personal, informal atmosphere operate in harmony. Better put, the logo suggests that our academic achievements are a direct result of our close relationships with professors, staff members and other students. As the clever rainbow gradation implies, our academic and personal lives complement each other. This informal model for learning, in a sense, is also a model for living. Our emblem snubs pretentious Ivies and NESCACs—we can simultaneously be serious undergraduates and happy, real people. Our sunny rainbow logo is out of date only when Pomona’s relaxed atmosphere is out of date and, well, when our SoCal sun stops shining.
The second beef that the Advisory Group has with our rainbow design is the “strongly corporate feel.” They find books and rainbows to be … corporate? Well, Mr. Fancy-Pants Logo Board, “corporate” or not, your alternative design is flat-out ugly. As a student, I am proud to display our current logo on my fridge, on my car and, yeah, on the info tab on my Facebook page, but I will not display the proposed one. This “non-corporate” label is too disconnected from our sunny campus atmosphere, too bland and Ivy League-ish, and comes off as an attempt to one-up the recent rebranding of our over-ambitious friends next door. With all due respect, the proposed logo resembles a 51-cent souvenir you get from a penny-press at some touristy gift shop. The mark is the Helvetica of college logos—it says nothing. It elicits no visceral feeling, or any feeling. Our current design is fun and iconic. When you see it on golf carts or cars from afar, you know exactly what it is. The new design is exactly the opposite—it is exactly what it tries to avoid. The cold, boring shape is hardly eye-catching; it is eye-averting.
From my experience, students seem to like our current logo. I don’t see why it needs a makeover at all. We need panels on more pressing issues: how to further reduce our carbon footprint or how to de-homogenize campus dialogue. But if change our design we must, then I ask the committee to seriously reconsider its proposal. I fear this proposed logo is part of a larger rebranding effort, an attempt to depart from our relaxed academic community and align Pomona with the Ivy League. Put some art students or professors on the Advisory Group. Ditch the penny-press proposal. Please ensure the product embodies something more intrinsic and meaningful than an appeal to our past: Pomona’s unique place in the liberal arts right now.