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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 1, 2003

UH president rejects proposals for new logo

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

After a week of strong and swift reaction to the two proposed University of Hawai'i logos, UH president Evan Dobelle yesterday rejected both and directed the committee that chose the symbols to find something the community can support.


Dobelle's announcement came in the wake of emotional and largely negative comments on the logos that have circulated in the media, across the UH campuses and in the community. After the designs were unveiled, more than 1,300 e-mails poured into the university with 60 percent of the opinions running against the two symbols that were finalists.

Dobelle said he was underwhelmed by both of the designs and said they simply didn't work.

"People can take a look at those logos and common sense tells you they're not going to work," Dobelle said. "They're a little jarring, and I don't think they speak in a perceptible way to what people's sense of Hawai'i is. ... You have to have something that works around the world, but also have a degree of speaking to the rainbow, speaking to kama'aina, and this doesn't work."

He said the Board of Regents would be consulted on how to proceed in the selection of a logo, which is intended to be a uniform "brand" tying the 10-campus UH system together for a unified marketing strategy to attract students and replace the estimated 150 different images now in use.

Robert Rytter, whose Baltimore company created the two logos, said he'd be happy to work with a Hawai'i graphic designer if that's what the regents want. Among the criticisms about the logos was that UH hired a design company from the Mainland.

"The important thing is getting the right symbol for the university," Rytter said. "And it's equally important for the public to embrace it. Obviously, you can't make everyone happy, but you try to get the majority.... However we get there is good by us. "

But Rytter also said he has never had this experience before.

"We work in a lot of different states doing this kind of work, and I haven't come across this before."

Tom Klobe, director of the UH art gallery and a professor of art, called Dobelle's actions "great news" but suggested a return to the Manoa campus logo for the marketing needs of the UH system.

"It's well designed, has a beautiful relationship of line, form and space and has meaning," said Klobe, who earlier had called the proposed Spectrum logo "hostile and threatening."

In discussing his decision yesterday, Dobelle talked about the importance of a university brand logo.

"This is serious business," he said. "Not something to be taken lightly. ... We're up against institutions such as Hawai'i Pacific University, which probably spends $5 (million) to $6 million a year on marketing. And we're up against (institutions such as) UCLA and Notre Dame and Georgetown and Miami, and we've spent no money on marketing."

He also said that a brand logo does not preclude use of the official UH seal, which he said is "inviolate" for official documents such as diplomas, or the Warrior "H," which he said is also "inviolate" for use by the school's teams.

Paul Costello, UH vice president for external affairs and the one who has led the search for a branding identity, will meet with regents in the next two weeks to explore a course of action. Dobelle suggested many possibilities, including a contest; input from local designers; changes in the committee; posting all designs created by the Rytter firm for reaction; and having Rytter come up with something completely different.

But he also noted there's a tight schedule of six to eight weeks; the whole system has been holding off printing brochures that need to go out in June.

Costello said he is encouraged by the developments "because you find out that people really care about the University of Hawai'i. They care about how we're represented, the language we use, they care about our symbols."

"And if people don't feel those symbols are correct," said Costello, "it's not worth going ahead."

Of the $82,000 logo contract, all but about $8,000 has been paid to the Rytter firm. Dobelle said a hold will go on the rest of the money.

Dobelle also said the process should pick the best logo, regardless of who creates it.

"Would I like to see a local person? Of course I would. But (basing decisions) on that, you never would have hired an Ed Cadman or a June Jones."

There has been consistent opposition to the proposed logos since they were unveiled on the UH Web site a week ago, with criticism ranging from their cost, to the "martial arts" look of the "Spectrum" design, to the fact they weren't created by a Hawai'i designer. Internet petitions have been circulating, heavily weighted against the logos, and Manoa art professors have been some of the most outspoken critics.

Manoa Art Department chairman John Wisnosky yesterday called Dobelle's action "fantastic ... very good news.

"I have a very long letter to the Board of Regents letting them know it doesn't serve the dignity, tradition or future of the university to have either one of those," Wisnosky said. "From a departmental point of view, it does smack the students and alums ... in the face when they could have come up with something more appropriate."

Wisnosky said he hoped a new committee would be formed and that local designers would be considered.

UH art professor Ron Kowalke, another critic of the logos, called Dobelle's action "courageous," and said "it's the power of the people.

"Most people think they can't stop anything that happens within the university because they're administrators," Kowalke said. "They make mistakes, too. And this is a giant mistake, and they saw it."

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8013.