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New UNH logo draws mixed reactions

New Hampshire Union Leader

December 08. 2013 9:25PM

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Release of the new logo for the University of New Hampshire brought less-than-enthusiastic reaction from fans at the UNH-Boston College hockey match at the Whittemore Center in Durham Saturday, and social media has been alive with criticism of the new branding mark.

But a Manchester advertising executive who has done trademark identification campaigns for other state agencies said the new logo does what it supposed to do.

UNH has formally adopted a blue and white shield with the initials NH in block capital letters, the N in blue against a white background and the H in white against a blue background.

The simplicity of the design, while criticized by some who prefer something a bit more complex, is appreciated by advertising executive Gary O'Neil of Manchester.

"The best logos are the most simplistic. All your major brands use simple logos," O'Neil said. "TD BankNorth, a very well known logo, is very very simple; they use it in a variety of formats."

UNH students at the arena were accepting, but indifferent.

Sophomore Jess Snowdon was among those not impressed by the difference between the new logo and the cupola of Thompson Hall, which was prominent on the former logo that was used for the past few decades.

"It looks a little old-fashioned," Snowdon said of the new design. "It looks almost like we're an online college — just a place you can just take online classes."

Others were sad to see the representation of Thompson replaced.

"It's OK," said Kate Murray, a senior. "I liked the (Thompson Hall) one better, but I guess it didn't include the other locations."

The growth and expansion of the school over the past decade may have outstripped lingering alumni nostalgia for the traditional logo. But O'Neil sees the tradition more about a campus than the school.

"They had to get a unified look," O'Neil said. "The pastoral look of Durham, when I went to school it was neat but it doesn't really fit the university today if they want to be a big research university."

Social media, perpetually enthused by the opportunity to caustically dismantle the work of others, rang with criticism over the redesigned logo. It was variously compared to community college logos, the universal "H" for hospital and a failed high school design class project.

But designing a logo for the University of New Hampshire, with its 24 letters, demands shortcuts.

When the logo was first unveiled at the hockey game Saturday night, O'Neil said he wasn't immediately overwhelmed at first glance, but began to appreciate what he terms its "crisp" appearance.

"'New Hampshire' is extremely hard to work with, it's way too long" O'Neil said. "You have to stack it, it's too much to do horizontally; by making it simplistic, it's OK."

It's more than just the name, O'Neil said. Graphic symbols are used for everything trom business cards and letterhead to traffic signs, Web pages and wearing apparel. Instantenous identification, along with quality reproduction in all of its uses, must be considered in the design.

"We are in an incredible new century where graphics are vitally important," O'Neil said.

Some constructive criticism was offered. Suggestions have been made to make the shade of blue used match the traditional UNH color. Others suggested the shield appearance might be more effective if it was curved into the shape of the letter U, to emphasize all letters in the school nickname.

"I don't know why they went with a shield," said Allison Wood, a UNH sophomore. "It's got an older look to it."

Some logos are redefined and evolve over the year. O'Neil points to the famous Nike "swoosh" which was born as a mark of emphasis to a lettered name, but which now is instantly identifiable on its own.

While refinements are possible, the underlying reason for the logo change probably won't change, in O'Neil's view.

"I was used to the old one and it's been a long time and prior to T-Hall, it was almost bucolic farmland" O'Neil said. "But UNH is so much different today, it's a more contemporary university."


Freelance writer David D'Onofrio contributed to this story.

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