Last year, FutureBrand contacted me to contribute to their re-design of the logo for The George Washington University. My daughter did her undergrad at GW and she’s now in her last year of law school there, so I was already familiar with the university, it’s history and their existing logo.
Existing GW University logo....
The brief was to update, or modernize the logo for a bolder, cleaner, forward-looking design that could work well across all media, especially digital applications where the existing logo seemed soft and a little dusty. FutureBrand sent some photos of a famous bust of Washington by Jean-Antoine Houdon as the model for the new image.
On a project like this, I always feel like my role is a bit like a mind-reader, I'm never really sure where it’s headed, or how much of a departure from the existing logo the client is likely to accept. I decided to give them four approaches ranging from realistic to graphic and to deliver each approach in four possible color variations. I sent these off, they seemed to be well received, I got paid and never heard anything else about the project.
The new logo was unveiled this summer, it kind of makes you wonder why they bothered with a re-design at all.
For me, the finished re-design is a disappointment, not just because they didn’t go with one of my directions, but it seems to not be a bolder, cleaner, forward-looking logo. (but, at least George is facing right.)
But it’s also not the gigantic logo disaster that the University of California just unveiled and quickly killed. http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-uc-logo-20121215,0,7912385.story
Hard to believe that's what they chose, it looks like a rendering of a sculpture rather than of a human. The question is "Which would George choose?"
I vote for one of yours.
Johnny HollywoodJanuary 10, 2013
Yeah, none of these are very good.
Greg ClarkeJanuary 10, 2013
Wow—that's a head scratcher! Your graphic stylized profile meets the bolder, cleaner criteria. If they're going to go with a more realistic approach on the head, at least get the anatomy right—the mouth, chin and jaw line look positively amateurish.
Brian StaufferJanuary 10, 2013
No one enjoys having their work trounced-upon publicly, but the end result chosen in this process really should be reconsidered. It has all the tell-tale signs of a solution born of a committee, carefully addressing an incompatible set of requirements to produce a solution that probably meets all requirements but fails so horribly.
Much of what I dislike about theirs could be easily written off to be just matters of taste if it were not for the very poor likeness.
I like each of your directions for different reasons. Each plays on a different emphasis. They are much better at communicating the grandeur of Washington.
You gave them monuments. The other folks gave them clip art.
DrawgerJanuary 10, 2013
I would like to echo everything Brian wrote. Your solutions are professional, iconic, timeless ...
CommitteeJanuary 10, 2013
I can just hear one of the more 'important' members of the committee saying repeatedly, 'this is good, but make the jaw ever stronger and bigger- more, more, more! Make him look like he takes steroids! Human anatomy? Not important!'
Scott BakalJanuary 10, 2013
"A camel was a horse built by committee."
I thought you gave them some great jumping off points, especially in that second row.
It's an interesting story, Paul and would love to know what they were thinking with that. I am sort of speechless they emulated the $500,000 design they had previously (using the SAME design firm no less) but really surprised the portrait made it through.
Chris WhetzelJanuary 10, 2013
I'd just like to say all of your images look like Washington; the new logo doesn't.
You would think the likeness would actually matter in a portrait...
sockwellJanuary 10, 2013
love it paul. yours was perfect, as usual.
what a bunch of losers at futurebrand.
HarryJanuary 10, 2013
I would echo everything Brian said. Certainly the first criteria should be a likeness. Sorry if whomever did this reads these words, but it is quite bad. It may very well have been destroyed by committee and this artist may have gone through hell, but in the end it's just bad.
So many possibilities for a great solution. Sorry they didn't pick any of your fine choices Paul, or stuck with the original.
flahertyJanuary 10, 2013
I'm fond of three down, three over myself. And yours of course.
Frustrating process I'm sure.
THIBEAULTJanuary 10, 2013
I think they got what they deserved!!
Victor JuhaszJanuary 10, 2013
Well,there ya go. At least you got paid. Can I assume these are still yours? Can they be proposed to the Post Office?
Robert NeubeckerJanuary 11, 2013
Classic committee work. I saw your choice before I read the post and thought that they'd gotten everything they were looking for.
Tim OBrienJanuary 11, 2013
I feel your pain Paul.
That said, I could spend a good amount of time each year writing about decisions made by people I work for that resulted in an image or cover that was not what it could have been.
Even though they chose this lantern jawed Washington, it might have been that they would again choose to look at that logo one more time and might reconsider your wonderful and appropriately iconic versions. "Sitting on the story" is most often the way to go.
Still, I feel you Paul, and you would be my first choice if I wanted a clean, iconic image for a business, school or other organization.
The problem with the logo they chose is that razor line jaw and the graphic novel look it has. I think of they merely created a transition plane on the edge of that jaw it might work much better.
sam hundleyJanuary 11, 2013
Heartbreaking for you, I'm sure - but think of the students and faculty who have to live with this thing. Washington is all about the profile - in particular, the nose. It's majestic, heroic, iconic. They blew it. Pun intended.
Rob DunlaveyJanuary 11, 2013
Life is strange.
I really like your final red-white & blue profile version. Just yesterday I was studying the various Washington portraits at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. They have the unfinished Gilbert Stuart that was used for the dollar bill. There's another somewhat heroic painting of Washington by Thomas Sully that has that stiff, over-buffed quality of the final chosen logo. Sometimes, the less said the better --with Washington in particular because he has a dour quality. His heroic qualities are better conveyed in profile especially for 2-d designs.
DanaJanuary 12, 2013
As a GW alum, I think all of the above are horrible.
Douglas FraserJanuary 12, 2013
Looks like another group think thing, or just the herd heading over the cliff. Simply yours was the better. There is no justice, there is.
Jody HewgillJanuary 14, 2013
I feel your pain Paul, the final logo and portrait is so weak. I think your comps are striking. I especially like all of your comps with George in profile. Personally I just would have included one with the light coming from the right.
Paul RogersJanuary 14, 2013
Thanks for the kind words everyone. I'm not really feeling any pain on this one. Some projects are like this, you do your best, something else gets used, and you move on. I posted the proposals I sent in because it's something we all go through as illustrators from time to time.
A logo re-design will always be met with some who believe they shouldn't have spent the money, and others who just don't like the new look. It's the business we've chosen.
Preston Sturges said "You can't hang around theaters handing out cards that say 'It wasn't my fault.' You just move on the next picture."
Roberto ParadaJanuary 15, 2013
Paul, they made a poor art choice. It's almost comical really. How do they look at that face of Washington and say that's it? Your piece up top has the class and dignity a school like GW deserves. It's sucks when bad taste get's in the way of good taste... and you still have your good taste intact.
Robert HuntJanuary 15, 2013
Yours was better, much better. Its that simple- its actually a textbook case of hive think resulting in mediocrity or worse.
Yuko ShimizuJanuary 16, 2013
What an amazing set of possibilities you had created.
When I was in art school for the first time, and working on developing my taste and eye for what is good art, design and what is a forward way of thinking, an idea crossed my mind: " if majority of people don't get it, does it even worth it for us to develop good taste that most of people (who are not in art) don't really understand"?
well, now I know that the answer is definitely yes, and also those who may not understand now get educated and eventually get it and the whole bar goes up over time, and we have to therefore work for it.
When I go to places like Europe where the appreciation and good design is respected, I see even random packages for coffee beans, jams and candies are well designed. (not everything, but many many more than in US).
I did study marketing initially in a university, and therefore, I do understand the importance and needs for it, but I also hope that people in general learn how to trust those who are professional at something they are not, and let them make the best decision for design that transcend time. Maybe in Europe they can still do that. US used to, and then they forgot. I hope they get back into it again. No more "American Idol" mentality. Please.
Paul BJanuary 17, 2013
Probably yours looked too "hope and changy" to the committee. But they are well done.
PurcupileJanuary 19, 2013
The question that should be answered before changing an established and recognized logo is...why?
It seems that many times it is because the original was a raster image and as such could not be adjusted to the needs of the owner. For instance a letterhead could not be reusable for other applications i.e. a billboard or a postage stamp without pixilation. Thus the original was not fully usable for the more modern applications and frequently was replaced by a vector image that could be scalable...usually resulting in a much more simple image than could be realized by someone who was not constrained by a $ per hour time-limit.
THIBEAULTJanuary 19, 2013
Purcupile: You lost me on that last non sequitur line.
Maxine DApril 30, 2013
My alma mater! what a shame. Your last renditions were strong and modern. Their 'colors' were buff and blue, as i recall...perhaps they didn't like the red?
GnarmacOctober 19, 2013
I recently began a grad program at GWU. Everywhere I see the current logo I think "wow, that is terrible!" I really cannot believe how bad the current logo is.
I very much like your 4th row, 2nd and 3rd columns.