Penn State’s Visual Identity Crisis

This month 2 years ago, Yahoo (that tech company with the website you flock to for answers to your WebAssign homework) redesigned and updated their official logo. Yahoo had been going through some much needed restructuring and updates to its team and products, and it was working! For the most part. Their products were being used more (Flickr, iOS apps, Yahoo Mail) and their relevance in the news definitely helped bring in new consumers. So the logo redesign was reflective of this progress.

Yahoo celebrated this redesign with “30 days of change”, where each day for 30 days they would post a redesigned Yahoo logo on their blog, until day 30, which would display the final and actual logo. This move was somewhat criticized, mostly for being weird, but it was fun and quirky and caused no harm. The logo redesign process popped up in the news, and there was more traffic to both Yahoo’s blog and services.

Here is what the old logo looked like:

The old Yahoo! logo (RIP)

The old Yahoo! logo (RIP)

And here is what the new one looks like:

Yahoo!'s new logo represents a new digital and visual identity

Yahoo!’s new logo represents a new digital and visual identity

Now you might be wondering why does any of this matter. Take a look at the two logos above. Notice the similarities between them? The size of the letters are mostly the same, logo size is similar, color is mostly preserved, nothing too radical to distract the consumer. Yahoo took it upon themselves to update their logo to give homage to the old and to introduce itself into the new digital and modern era it had entered, and I love the new logo and am sure plenty others do so as well.

Penn State also went through a logo redesign recently, and this redesign was not taken so well. What once was a serious, professional and traditional logo, respected by alumni and students alike, was sort of dropped altogether and replaced with a more modern, cartoonish (to some people), less-professional logo.

Here is the old Penn State logo:

The old, traditional PSU logo

The old, traditional PSU logo

And here is the new one:

The new, less-liked Penn State logo

The new, less-liked Penn State logo

Big difference. Many have complained that the new logo does not accurately represent Penn State and its core symbolic values. For example, the light blue shade is a far departure from the true navy-blue shade of the old logo. In addition, the font is said to be very cheap and unprofessional. But without a doubt, it is the lion-in-shield that is getting the most heat from people; its cartoonish figure is likened to those of characters such as Tony the Tiger and Chester Cheetah, nothing like the old lion symbol.

All these complaints of course are common and expected when such a large institution changes their visual identity. However, the 128K price tag that came with this design, which Penn State paid for, is not looking too good in the eyes of the public. Many compare the logo to the work of an amateur, not a professional, and question where exactly the money came from and went that so much was needed for a simple redesign, which turned out to be ill-recieved anyways. Students have even started an online petition for Penn State to remove this logo, and at least survey the students and alumni about what the redesign should look like.

And they’re right. Yahoo is a company that serves not just students but a wide range of people. It hosts a plethora of services under its purple umbrella, and it can be considered a household name, if you’re into “Yahooing” things instead of Googling them. And Yahoo has shown that keeping tradition while keeping up is important and can be done. And I believe Penn State should have done (should do) the same.

Let me address Penn State directly:

Dear Mr. State,

You provide services, homes, food, education, and so much more to literally hundreds of thousands of students, creative and bright minds who aspire to do something more than just sit around. So why not ask them how they think your next visual identity refresh should look like? Such input is valuable because you would be building a logo right on top the very foundation of your existence: educating, teaching, and learning from students. With this new logo, it was like you sort of stepped off this foundation and set up a mom-and-pop ice-cream shop, hoping to attract people away from the Berkley Creamery at the top. It’s not right and it doesn’t make sense.

This is what the students and alumni of Penn State want:

  • The traditional colors of Penn State back
  • A professional font that says we are not just some rinky-dink university but a well-established and prestigious one
  • A respected iconic Nittany Lion

Do it Mr. State. Don’t let a logo that students and alumni believe does not reflect Penn State become its visual identity.


All of Penn State.

To make one thing clear, I personally do not have a big problem with the new logo, I think it actually looks okay! But I do not think it looks like and represents what Penn State is. So I decided to take a stab at the whole logo redesign thing, and used Microsoft Paint to come up with a new one. I used the old Penn State logo as a template, and completely designed the “S” of State and the lion from scratch (which would explain the bumpiness of the S):

I took a stab at the Penn State logo redesign

I took a stab at the Penn State logo redesign (mind the “S”)

Let me know what you guys think of the new logo, is it really a big deal? And also criticisms of mine? Let me know in the comments below!

One response to “Penn State’s Visual Identity Crisis

  1. Pingback: Website Critique | Chris of life·

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s