The Thinking 

A University Markets Itself

December 12, 2012


CAROLYN, who commented on the University of California’s new logo at her blog, writes:

The University of California and the culture it represents aren’t quite meaningless, as you suggested. They now have a derived meaning. For example, remember Kentucky Fried Chicken? Each of those three words had an actual and specific meaning. Now the company is simply KFC. The meaning of those letters is derived entirely from the past: For all those old enough to remember, they still stand for Kentucky Fried Chicken. The meaning of the letters rests on the past . . . while the letters themselves simultaneously demolish the past.

That same sort of derived meaning is present in the new logo: The creators tell us the top of the U is supposed to represent the book from the old logo. So they still want to have their book, their nod to the old culture, while simultaneously making it peripheral and all but unrecognizable. (The video the University has put out to explain the new logo appropriately shows a hand brushing away all the elements of the old seal.)

The meaning of current culture rests on traditional Western culture, while current culture is simultaneously busy demolishing traditional Western culture.

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