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'We still hate it.' USF students and alumni respond to final logo design

The University of South Florida spent five months and nearly $8,000 to tweak its new academic logo from the design shown here on the left to the design shown on the right. Though the logo has been widely ridiculed by students and alumni, USF has no plans to change it [Courtesy of USF]
Published Mar. 15

Horrendous, hideous, horrible, hate — all are words used by students and alumni to describe the final design of the University of South Florida's new academic logo.

Released this week, it is nearly identical to what USF debuted in September, as is the rejection it has been met with. Though the university never promised changes, some had hope. But after five months and nearly $8,000 more into the $47,000 design process, recent tweaks to the logo are hardly noticeable.

The bull still has a stark resemblance to the logo used by national finance company Merrill Lynch, students and alumni say. The colors used still don't jibe with USF's traditional dark-green-and-gold color scheme.

Similarly to what happened in the fall, complaints about the design are stirring again, both online and in emails with alumni, records show. Still, the university has no plans to change it, chief marketing director Joe Hice told the Tampa Bay Times. His office led the logo development and continuously monitors social media activity related to it.

"There have been lots of comments about the logo, positive as well as negative," he said, adding that the recent minor changes to the design were "based on feedback" and done to make the logo look better on business cards and other marketing materials.

Designers at Tampa-based Spark Branding House spent 47 hours shrinking the bull's tail, bringing its back legs a bit closer together and drawing a line to connect the animal's chest to its right front leg, according to the company's Jan. 24 invoice to USF. Yet none of it seems satisfy those who never liked the design in the first place.

USF posted the logo on its main Facebook account on Tuesday afternoon and by Thursday, it had garnered nearly 200 hundred comments. Most are negative. No commenters seemed to spot the differences between the final design and what was released in the fall.

"If this is a temperature check," Facebook user Aneika Stephenson said, "we still hate it."

Cindy Greenwood added: "Every time I see it, I think, 'They're really sticking with this, huh?' I've seen a lot of commentary on this since it launched and the VAST majority is so negative.'"

RELATED: Student reaction to the new USF Logo: What's up with the colors?

Multiple commenters made jokes about retirement planning, a service offered by Merrill Lynch. Others were more harsh, with one person calling the logo "ripped-off" and another saying the company should take USF to court.

Hice said the finance firm has not contacted the university about the logo, and he doesn't expect them to.

"Merrill Lynch obviously didn't have any problems with it, because the trademark went through," he said. "Face it, all bulls look a little bit alike."

Similar complaints to those on Facebook have reached the university via email, after Hice sent a message to about 3,500 alumni last week requesting feedback on the logo and other pieces of USF's overall $200,000 marketing campaign. Some of the nearly 50 respondents were positive, records show, while others pleaded that the logo be scrapped altogether.

"You must know by now that a good portion of alumni and university supporters do not like the new academic logo at all," Josh Schechter said in an email to the university. Like others, he noted the lime green coloring and similarities to the Merrill Lynch logo.

Class of 1999 alumni Dennis Conley replied to USF's email with similar concerns, saying the logo "remains a huge disappointment" in the university community. In another email, alumni Louis Derousie told USF to "swallow your pride" and "be more original."

Jeffrey Fishman, an alumnus and donor to USF, told the Times he's disappointed in his alma mater. Since graduating in 1992, he's given at least $1.45 million to support multiple colleges at USF Tampa.

"This logo is not the best foot forward," he said. "I think they went down a path and now don't know how to get off that path and onto another."

The number of complaints about the logo on social media should be a red flag to USF, said Carl Zee, a 2018 graduate. He wonders: What is the point of rebranding if your logo looks like something else?

"They're basically ignoring the alumni base in favor of what they think is their own good idea," he said in an interview. "It's something that feels forced on us when no one wants it."

Hice said his office is listening to students and alumni, and will continue to. But they certainly aren't changing anything.

"We are doing what we think is best," he said. "We think being disruptive with a logo like this is going to benefit the university in the long term."

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

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