New branding, or how we sold out

Graphics courtesy of Xavier University | The change in logos for the university signals a possible shift in priorities. The old logo (below, left) represents Xavier’s Jesuit background while the new logo (below, right) places emphasis on Xavier’s athletic “power.” Staff Writer Ryan Kambich examines what this means for the university’s image and how he believes it disrespects Xavier’s heritage.

Recently, you may have noticed a new aesthetic infecting our university. In places like GSC and CLC, Xavier’s hallowed “shield” logo is being replaced by a sleeker “power” X, made famous each March as Xavier’s athletics logo. This is most prevalent on the side of Fenwick Place, where a new version of the student commitment hangs.

This garish change comes as an effort by Xavier Marketing and Communications to rebrand our university and present a new face to the world. The project, reported in the Jan. 25 edition of the Newswire, plays into what Doug Ruschman, Vice President of MarCom, called “a continuation of our trajectory about where we’ve been heading” and replaces the time-honored shield with the athletics X throughout campus.

The rebrand demonstrates a fundamental disrespect for our heritage and chooses the pursuit of recognition over history. It is a telling sign of our university’s priorities.

XUThe old shield logo incorporated important elements of Xavier’s identity in a simple, respectable representation. The shield itself, long understood as a symbol of academia, demonstrated our university’s commitment to academic achievement and cura personalis. Furthermore, incorporated into the logo is the imprint of a cross. As an agnostic student, I am perhaps the least religious individual you’ll meet.

However, I fully acknowledge and feel a deep respect for the Jesuit philosophy that underlies our university’s orientation. The incorporation of the cross speaks to that heritage, making it immediately clear that we are a university committed to justice and changing the world.

Xavier-logo-vertical-color-thmBy contrast, the “power” X is a cold, sterile design. Subjectively, it is bland and uninteresting, lacking historical gravity or intrigue. Objectively, it communicates little about what we as a university value, sterilizing our dedication to justice and a better world – an odd choice to display alongside our student commitment to such values. Rather, the “power” X has long been associated with the success of our basketball team, the driving factor behind the rebrand. “The ‘X’ is (…) what prospective students know us to be,” Mr. Ruschman explained in January. Therein lies the key; the athletics X has nationwide visibility each year as Xavier dominates during March Madness, and it is the logo prospective students know. We as a university have decided to steer into this impression and rebrand our visual identity along these lines of athletic success. We have sold out, forsaking our academic prestige and Jesuit principles for marketing visibility.

The issue, fundamentally, is one of perception: How do we want others to think of us as an institution, and how do we perceive ourselves? Are we simply a basketball sideshow with no real significance save once per year in March, or are we a serious academic institution with a near two-century history bathed in the Jesuit philosophy?

Furthermore, what function does our branding play – simply a capitalistic ploy to lure in tuition money, or does it serve a higher function, to communicate our academic rigor and standing as a Jesuit force for good? If Xavier is no more than a “brand” then defining ourselves based on the success of our basketball team makes perfect sense. But if we aspire to be something greater, if we are a serious academic institution dedicated to educating men and women for and with others, cura personalis, then let’s set money aside and show that face to the world.

Ryan Kambich is a junior Philosophy, Politics and the Public and economics double major. He is also a staff writer for the Newswire from Deerfield, Ill.

4 thoughts on “New branding, or how we sold out

  1. Let’s not kid ourselves here: When is the last time that the administration truly cared about, or made decisions to further, the academic heritage of the university? The state of research facilities and grant money coming into the university speaks volumes about where priorities lie. The university’s priorities lie in rapid student expansion through the introduction of new buildings, new landscaping, and new auxiliary services(with 6 figure administrators to boot). University officials at the highest level are more interested in making the university look like a playground to awe parents and prospective students, than they are with providing solid education and making a name for Xavier in the academic community. Journal publication rates are abysmal for Xavier students. This move doesn’t surprise me.

  2. I think this overlooks some of the university’s strongest initiatives for students’ academic and personal well-being that do reflect Xavier’s commitment to students and its academic/Jesuit heritage. The school recently introduced the Student Success Center which focuses on providing students with not only academic but personal support where they need it. They hired Success Coaches whose full-time job is to work with students and provide this support. If a student is struggling academically, their success coach will reach out and work to direct them to the resources they need. This also goes for directing them to emotional support services. GOA is a great example of this as well. It seeks to provide every new member of the Xavier family with practical skills they need and provide them with awareness and education on topics like microaggressions and implicit bias. It’s taught by faculty and staff who take on that role voluntarily in addition to their full-time jobs. They have also begun offering new programs life SafZones: Trans 101 training which goes even further than Safe Zones training on other campuses. There are mission and immersion trips offered all over the world that help plant seeds of justice and service in students. The new partnership with Trihealth dedicates a new health and wellness center to further enhance our health science majors, offer expanded psych and wellness services and provide clinical space for students to receive primary care on campus. It’s also a new recreational facility. From a faculty standpoint the University, through the Center for Mission and Identity, offers a two-year course to administration, faculty and staff in every department on Ignatian heritage and values to ensure that Xavier’s identity as a Jesuit school permeates in every facet of the work they do to honor that Jesuit identity and instill that in students. The program is one that has been nationally recognized and emulated at other Jesuit universities. I wish I had been so lucky to have any of these resources when I was in college and students at other universities don’t get nearly this many resources. Logos change (and are consolidated when you have more than one. At one point there were three different ones Xavier was using, none of which were by any means historic to the university).

  3. You refer to the old logo as “hallowed.” However, what you didn’t take the time to research is that the shield logo is actually only 7 years old. It’s hardly steeped in tradition or some deep-rooted meaning as you infer. The logo change, if anything, nearly represents an impatient marketing department (or maybe a money grab).

  4. I never liked the old logo so I’m fine with it as Xavier unifies it’s branding across academics and athletics. I find the logo way more appealing look forward to its implementation. If you think our Jesuit identity is chained to a 7 year old logo I don’t think you truly understand what our identity is. People are reading way too far into this.

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