Milton Glaser, designer of such iconic emblems as the ubiquitous “I love NY,” the green label for Brooklyn Brewery and Bob Dylan’s multicolored hair on a 1975 poster for Columbia Records, was also responsible for the compilation of circle, stars and rays that Stony Brook University wore over the last decade. Now, three years after Samuel Stanley replaced Glaser’s close friend Shirley Strum Kenny as university president, his logo has morphed into a red shield, and the legendary designer isn’t impressed with the new look.
In a message to the campus community, Stanley, Dean of the School of Medicine Kenneth Kaushansky and Provost Dennis Assanis said, “As Stony Brook’s trajectory soars and our image thrives both nationally and internationally, we need to be strategic in the way we visually present ourselves to peer institutions, to current and prospective students and faculty, and to all key constituents.”
The logo change is part of a larger effort to re-brand the university. It was announced just after the university received a $150 million donation from Jim and Marilyn Simons, and an additional $35 million in capital construction funds and additional tuition revenue from the approval of the university’s NYSUNY 2020 Challenge Grant application.
The university launched a webpage, www.stonybrook.edu/branding, to explain the importance of the branding campaign as the school moves towards a greater excellence associated with more money for research and academics.
“The key element in the new mark is a shield, which symbolizes strength,” the message from Stanley, Kaushansky and Assanis says. Shields have long been used in academia, and a slew of universities, including all eight Ivies, already use them in their logos.
Lewis Communications, the Alabama-based company that designed the new logo, did not return calls for comment.
Glaser said his original design signified the idea of enlightenment, illumination and the pursuit of knowledge. The rays and stars of that design have been preserved within the walls of the new shield, which keeps the logo identifiable, though Glaser says the new design is old-fashioned, banal and overly familiar.
“It certainly doesn’t break any new ground,” he said. But, he speculated, maybe the university was not trying to do anything new. Aside from the logo, Glaser worked with Kenny on numerous design projects for the university, leading the University Council to award him the University Medal in 2005, the highest honor given to individuals who have provided service to the university. Kenny is well-known for supporting culture and the arts, and Glaser helped contribute to that legacy.
Nancy Wozniak, learning architect and ePortfolio program manager at Stony Brook University, researches online branding. According to Wozniak, branding is a way of selling oneself to others, and it is important for Stony Brook to do so.
“…I’m realizing how critical it is that individuals, as well as organizations and businesses, develop at brand that represents their strengths and professional abilities,” Wozniak said in an e-mail. “A strong professional brand is not only essential for that crucial first impression, but it connects our campus community by developing a strong sense of trust and loyalty.”
Wozniak said that the Stony Brook brand is a “promise of excellence in professional performance and outcomes.” She said the brand shows others that Stony Brook’s administration and students believe in that promise, and that they should, too.
“To our campus community, the shield unifies our belief that we can make a difference and make the world a better place for all,” she said.
Despite those positive aspects, Glaser criticized the new design for its unoriginality. “I have a feeling that in the academic community, there’s a reluctance to be overly assertive,” he said. The new logo is “unadventurous,” he added, “unlike Shirley.”