OK, time to ‘fess up. I also have presided over university rebranding exercises. The first of these was in 2001, when we introduced the new logo and brand for Dublin City University, where we changed from this to this. More recently we made a small adjustment to the logo of my current university, Robert Gordon University, from this to this.
One thing I learned in all of these processes is that you need to avoid spending a whole lot of money on consultants. There is no shortage of people who will take your money, spend a lot of time talking to a lot of people and producing a lot of jargon-rich documents, before handing you something you could probably have designed yourself over supper. So in DCU I imposed an absolute limit of £5,000 for the exercise (and I think we got rather good value, as the logo was an instant success). In RGU we spent no money at all, doing it all in-house.
So what are we to make of the re-branding of Trinity College Dublin, which has been all over the Irish news media over the past day or two? It is worth saying here that TCD has been doing some really interesting things recently in developing its profile, reputation and operations. But with no disrespect to the College’s leadership, this re-branding, at least in my view, is not one of those things. We are told it cost €100,000, and what the College got in return was, at least based on the extracts reported in the Irish Times, a report full of meaningless verbiage and a new brand that is somewhat odd and more than a little confusing.
So what do you get for €100,000? You get told that blue and white is more ‘modern’ and ‘crisp’ than blue, white, yellow and red; and that you should go for a new and globalisation-friendly name, ‘Trinity College, the University of Dublin’. And what do I say? I will suggest that nobody will ever, and I mean ever, use that name in actual speech. You couldn’t, you’d feel totally stupid if you did. The new crest is all right I suppose, but its impact will be precisely the same as that of the old one; except perhaps that it looks a little less interesting. I have no idea why, as the accompanying College memo apparently suggests, any of this will produce more ‘impactful media coverage’.
On top of that the College has built into its new corporate identity an essential mechanism to confuse everyone. For totally understandable reasons, to ensure consistency of recognition and rankings, it has decided to maintain the identity of ‘Trinity College Dublin’ and TCD for research output purposes. So then, it will have two different brands. Goodness me.
My own view, for what it is worth, is that Trinity College Dublin, or TCD, is a world brand; it is well recognised, and hugely respected. I’d leave it alone.