I was a member of our college’s Sesquicentennial Steering Committee, which included outreach to various campus entities to get them to become active participants in events celebrating our 150 years. We hoped to cultivate things like lectures, performances, research, readings and other activities that engage people with this grand occasion.
And yet here are some actual responses to the question of how folks actively worked the sesquicentennial into their activities:
- “We put the logo on our website!”
- “We’re putting the logo onto some T-shirts!”
- “We’ve included the logo on some of our printed materials.”
My general reaction is “wha-huh?” A logo can build awareness, but it’s passive. By saying you’re slapping the logo on something, you’re essentially participating by not really participating. It’s low-investment activity, sort of like bringing a canned good to gain free admission to a sporting event, then believing you’ve done your part to make the world a better place.
On another note, this exchange, for an emerging program on campus, also took place:
Me: “What are you doing to promote the program?”
Them: “We’ve been working with a student for the past couple months to design a logo.”
Again … what? So often I see people put all kinds of time and energy into creating a logo when they should be using that instead to develop real content. Such as: What this program is. How it benefits participants. How you can take action. A logo tells you none of those things. We don’t make major purchases because of logos. We buy things because they provide various benefits, tangible and intangible, to us.
I don’t know how to break the obsession with logos over real content or actual action. I guess people decide logos represent low-hanging fruit that can postpone making difficult core decisions. That so many of these logos have very little institutional tie-in is yet another complication, as if it fulfills a need to claim some kind of separate turf. Except it’s like staking claim to some property then designing a national flag in lieu of developing the land or coming up with a governance plan.