UI to tweak logo design, colors to unify brand

UI to tweak logo design, colors to unify brand

CHAMPAIGN — Orange and blue have defined the University of Illinois' identity for more than a century, since students chose the official school colors in 1894.

The exact shades have varied over the years — from a deep navy to a medium blue, from orange-yellow to the reddish-orange on the new Illini uniforms adopted three years ago.

Now, the campus is poised to make that deeper athletic orange the official school color as it moves to unify its "branding" across all platforms — including a single logo based on the familiar Block I used for decades by athletics.

That could spell the end of the "column I" developed in the 1990s for use by the academic side of campus — found on everything from letters to websites to fundraising brochures.

UI officials are mum on the coming change, but a source told The News-Gazette that the school plans to roll out its new branding this week.

Asked about it Friday, campus spokeswoman Robin Kaler would not disclose details but said, "We are working on unifying the Illinois brand to speak with one voice. We'll have some exciting announcements on that very soon."

Not everyone is happy about the new colors. The orange in the current Illini uniforms, which would be adopted campuswide, looks too red to some longtime fans, said Cathy Rector, president of the Illini Quarterback Club.

"They're not real crazy about the color. I haven't heard a whole lot, but what I have heard is that it doesn't look orange," she said.

Rector sympathizes with the traditionalists, but she's a relative "newcomer," an Indiana University graduate who moved to Illinois about 19 years ago (and is now a staunch Illini booster).

"I don't mind it. I think the uniforms are kind of attractive," she said. "But I understand where they're coming from. Change is hard; you learn that. It's one of those things that you have to wrap your arms around and realize there's going to be change."

Image is everything

In 2015, the campus hired Edelman public relations consultants for $550,000 to develop a unified branding plan in advance of a major fundraising campaign set to kick off in October 2017. Amid budget pressures and faculty objections to the no-bid contract, which was paid by the UI Foundation, the campus later terminated the deal with Edelman but created a new Marketing Advisory Council to coordinate marketing and communications efforts.

Officials argued that the right branding is important to motivate funders and donors, recruit top faculty and students in a competitive environment, and present a coherent image to taxpayers and legislators.

Previous branding initiatives over the years had streamlined marketing efforts and consolidated the number of logos at the UI — once at more than 800 — but different parts of campus still use their own. That confuses consumers and makes it difficult to project a unified image for the campus, officials said.

The marketing group recently presented its branding recommendations to Chancellor Robert Jones.

Nike's rebranding role

UI athletics went through its own rebranding several years ago, unveiling a fresh line of Nike sports apparel in 2014 with a new Illini "shield" logo and a dark navy and deep orange color scheme.

Members of Nike's rebranding team had come to campus and worked with campus administrators, athletic department officials, coaches and students on the designs. UI officials also visited the company's headquarters in Beaverton, Ore., and were in regular communication with the Nike office on the project.

Previously, officials said, there was a lack of consistency among the Illinois teams when it came to their "look." Some used a "Block I" with a circle around it, the word Illinois underlined, the word Illinois written at an angle or a basketball or soccer ball with the word Illinois written through it.

Plus, there were a variety of fonts and shades of orange and blue used.

A 'fresh' approach

The new effort with Nike was considered a "clean-up" of the brand, focusing different units to use new guidelines for colors and fonts.

Football and basketball adopted the look first, and all sports now use the new uniforms, said Associate Athletic Director Kent Brown.

Coaches and players were happy with the products, and the UI signed a new 10-year, $44.5 million sponsorship deal with Nike in 2016. The company agreed to provide the UI with more than $4 million worth of shoes, jerseys and other merchandise each year.

Rector said it's good for the program to update its look and keep things "fresh." For a big school, branding is important, she said.

Longtime Quarterback Club board member Jill Allred, who's been attending Illini games since the 1960s, likes the new colors, the new helmets, the new "shield" logo, and especially the new gray uniforms representing Red Grange.

"If I had to pick, I'd go with the old orange. But you've just got to go with the change," Allred said.

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doubley wrote on August 14, 2017 at 5:08 am


A century and a half since 1894, I guess I didn't take any college math classes

Julie Wurth wrote on August 14, 2017 at 2:08 pm
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Thanks for pointing that out. It's been fixed.