Students react to new College logo

by John Fulton | 2/2/18 2:30am

The College’s new visual identity, including a redesigned logo and a new communications framework, has sparked impassioned responses from students and alumni since its release on Jan. 21.

Hundreds of Dartmouth community members, in comments on a variety of Facebook posts and in person across campus, have given their feedback about the changes — often negative, though in some cases positive. The “D-Pine,” a new logo featuring a modern interpretation of the iconic Lone Pine set into a large “D,” has received a number of negative reactions, with commenters comparing it to a startup logo.

Survey website College Pulse conducted a survey on student reactions to the new logo, comparing the new D-Pine and wordmark to the old College crest and wordmark. Of the 812 respondents at press time, 51.7 percent “strongly disliked” the new logo, while 26.8 percent “somewhat disliked” it. Only 10.5 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” liked the new logo. In contrast, 84.3 percent of respondents “somewhat” or “strongly” liked the old logo, while only 6.7 percent “somewhat” or “strongly” disliked it.

A week and a half after its debut, the D-Pine continues to be hotly debated on campus. Sophie Huang ’21 said that she and her friends have discussed the new logo extensively since it was first revealed.

“I think it looks kind of tacky,” said Huang, noting that she does not think the D-Pine looks like a proper Ivy League logo and that it seems like a step down from the original crest. She added that it looks like a knockoff of the Stanford University logo, which features a pine tree set inside a large “S.”

Caroline Smith ’21 said she was also displeased when the D-Pine was revealed. While she does not have a problem with the design itself, she said that the new logo appears too modern for a school that has been around for such a long time.

“We are built on traditional values, and some of that has to change as the times change, but the classic and traditional look of the logo should not change,” she said.

Some students, however, appreciate the change. Rachel Kesler ’19 said that the traditional crest was problematic in its portrayal of Native Americans and needed to be replaced. The crest features two Native Americans being guided toward an education by a holy light as reference to the institution’s founding purpose, which many Dartmouth students, including Kesler, found racist. As a result, to Kesler the re-branding represents the “idea that maybe we’re moving away from those more archaic ideas and being able to look at this school as a place that’s welcoming to all but not necessarily from the racist viewpoint of ‘educating the savage,’” she said.

As for the design of the new logo, Kesler thinks that the outcry from the community has been slightly overblown.

“I don’t know why people are freaking out,” she said. “Maybe it could have been better, but at the same time, it’s not ugly, it looks fine.”

She added that the change from the original seal was long overdue and reflects the College’s need to “be a little more critical of the image we’re putting out there.”

According to vice president for communications Justin Anderson, the discourse that developed over the new logo was to be expected.

“It’s particularly difficult when you’re dealing with a place like Dartmouth that has been around for over 250 years, and people are understandably emotionally attached to different icons and symbols,” he said.

Because of this, the College’s re-branding committee focused on devising a central communications strategy that would back up the new visual identity.

“Any [design] choice was going to have people that loved it and people that disliked it,” Anderson said. “What you need … is a strategy that drives the design choices that people can respect.”

Anderson did not specify whether or not the seal’s racial undertones played a role in the re-branding, saying that the logo change was necessary simply because the College needed a versatile, resizable logo that could function easily across all media. Furthermore, while he said that community members contributed to the new communications framework, he did not specify whether or not they were shown the logo before its debut to solicit feedback. He added that the College’s traditional crest will continue to be used, albeit in a diminished capacity.

Despite the polarized reaction to the new logo from students and alumni, Anderson noted that his team has already received many compliments on the design.

“We’re seeing a lot of people who have taken a liking to it right away,” he said.