At around 8:47 am on Thursday January 26, the social networks exploded. Twitter and Facebook were such a fiery mess you’d think the RIM network was down. The eruption of activity was due to the unveiling of Western’s new brand, an administrative initiative seven months and $200,000 in the making. The rebranding package, shaped by Toronto-based design firm Hahn Smith, equipped Western with a new name, logo, and website (thank god). It took all of about 15 seconds of browsing the trends to get the hint that the first reaction wasn’t necessarily positive. While #westernU and #uwo were trending in Canada, #ugh and #WTF weren’t too far behind. Using my knowledge of youth culture gathered from my time at the University of Facebook, I hammered down the reactions to three main groups:
i) Acceptance and Approval
While I cannot help but notice the new crest’s resemblance to a flaming acorn, I find myself in this group. Western is among the top schools in Canada – I know it, you know it, the administration knows it. But none of us can deny the recent reputation of the university is centered around a certain lifestyle that may be concerning to incoming frosh, especially international prospects. Much like locking the floors in Saugeen, the university is feverishly trying to destroy its party reputation while maintaining the more subjective “best student experience” it claims to provide. Replacing “University of Western Ontario” with “Western University Canada” accurately reflects the notion of an internationally acclaimed Western along side the ranks of McGill, Yale, Harvard, and (that other) MIT.
ii) Constructive Displeasure
It seemed as if most of the disgruntled comments about the face-lift revolved around either the price tag or the geography of Canada. Okay, I have to admit, $200,000 seems to be a tad steep for an Apple-esque commercial, new font, some web design, and a logo which, to quote my roommate Dave, “would have taken 15 minutes on [Adobe] Illustrator.” But what seems to be rubbing people the wrong way is the feeling of being left out of something so important. The current top comment on the release video reads, “I don’t recall being surveyed about a school name change… were you guys?” I’d usually consider myself to be an in-the-know student, but this whole “new identity” thing slipped right by me.
Regardless of the number on cheque, much of the uproar sprung from students who were confused as to why the school needed a new image more than it needed updated media labs or software. You know, things for learning?
Scrolling through YouTube comments on the release video, many of the complaints regarding cost are coupled with the words “history” and “tradition,” reiterating the sentiment of many students and alumni: that UWO was just fine the way it was. The other three quarters of the comments on the video appear to be cheeky students who can’t get over one small hump: “Western University Canada” isn’t really in Western Canada.
Easily my favourite group by far.
Look, new things are scary. I get it, I really do. The time in grade three when my mom donated all my favorite neon-orange pants (I went through a phase) to charity was amongst my darkest of hours. But guess what? Though I didn’t realize it at the time, the navy blue jeans she put in their place were fashion forward (in grade three). I denied their existence for as long as I could, stubborn that they didn’t glow in the dark like my old ones did, but eventually the thought of my old neon pants completely drifted from my mind. Probably for the best, right? So, stop, take a breath, and accept the change. Still not following? Please refer here.
So there you have it. Regardless of whether or not you like the new brand, I think you’ll look around and find that the school itself hasn’t changed a whole lot. But if the geographic ambiguity of “Western University” being located in a central Canadian city still has your knickers in a knot, just remember: No one really knew where Hogwarts was, either.