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Experts weigh in on UNH logo designs


An academic clock tower doesn't really connect with UNH, according to marketing experts weighing in on the University of New Hampshire's move to redesign its main calling card — its logo.

Last week, the university acknowledged it is paying about $100,000 to a New York City firm for the marketing makeover.

The university has shown three proposed logos to faculty, staff and other "stakeholders," said Ludwig Bstieler, associate professor of marketing at UNH. A video of the design team's recent on-campus presentation is also being circulated, he said.

The university's spokesman refused to provide the New Hampshire Union Leader with an image of the proposed logos. Spokesman Erika Mantz also initially refused to release the video, saying it was intended for specific audiences.

But she did so early Monday evening. It is available at http://vimeo.com/65761467, with the password unhwildcats2013.

"We are unable to provide the logo files as they are not our legal property," Mantz said in an email.

The three logos could be described as:

• The Mind Puzzle.

An N and H circumscribed by a U, with all three letters sharing common vertical elements.

"If your logo's too much of a mind puzzle, it's going to present problems," warned Scott Tranchemontagne, president of Manchester-based Montagne Communications.

"It's the least distinguishable," Bstieler said.

Sean Owen, president of Manchester- and New York-based wedu, said it is the most progressive, and will force people to think about it. He noted that logos are part of something else — a letterhead, a web page, a sweatshirt; most people who see the logo in context will recognize the letters.

• Keep it Simple.

An N and H, inside a block-lettered U.

It was favored by all three experts. Owen sees it as an emblem. "Your traditional Ivy League colleges are known to have their emblems, their crests," he said.

Like the other two proposed logos, it has no gradients or tints, and is very stark. That's the trend in contemporary logo design, he said.

"It's very clean, not complex," said Tranchemontagne.

"It's simple, it's clear," Bstieler said.

A logo needs to immediately project the subject, in this case UNH. "The tower could be in any village or another hall at any university," Bstieler said about the current logo.

• Too Much Information.

An N and H share a logo with three other design elements.

Bstieler, who attended a presentation about the logos, said the fields represent the three original elements of the land-grant university — agriculture, the sea and space.

"It's most grounded in tradition," he said, "but it needs to be simple and unique." He noted some people thought the field of stars represented snow, and thought that was a turnoff.

Neither Tranchemontagne, a UNH graduate, nor Owen could decipher all three elements.

"It has a lot of different things going on," Tranchemontagne said. "Some people try to do too much with a logo."

"It's busy," Owen said.

All three said they understand the reason for UNH to create a new logo.

Tranchemontagne pointed out that the current logo is very horizontal — Thompson Hall on the left with the name of the university stretching far off to the right.

That doesn't work in social media, where Facebook and Twitter profile pictures tend to be square, he said.

Owen said there is a huge range in the price for a new logo.

If the package includes market research and focus groups, $100,000 would be about correct.

The New York firm of Chermayeff & Geismar & Haviv has the contract with UNH.

The university has said the price includes a redrawing of the university seal and guidelines that specify how the trademark can be used. Mantz said the money comes from a discretionary fund of privately raised dollars, and the project is seen as crucial by the president's cabinet.

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