Failed logo reveals lack of opportunity

by Editorial Board / Beacon Staff • September 18, 2014

At issue: Athletics department forced to pull new logo after criticism.

Our take: Instead of outsourcing these opportunities, the school should open them up to students.

This summer, Emerson’s athletic department was faced with criticism from athletes and other students after introducing its first-ever logo. The design, which depicts a lion and the words “Emerson College,” was panned as being pixelated and outdated, representative of neither the institution nor its athletic teams.

Though the prospective logo looked more like something created in an early version of Microsoft Word, that wasn’t the biggest problem. More troubling was the school’s decision to contract its development to an outside firm, Phoenix Design and Development. With a marketing program as large and veritable as ours, this opportunity could have easily been opened to Emerson’s own design students, who are familiar with the college, its athletics, and the persnickety expectations of a community skilled in visual arts.

But this is merely another step in what appears to be the administration’s tendency to outsource creative opportunities that would’ve been better—and certainly more meaningfully—done by students.

In May 2012, Emerson commissioned a San Francisco-based artist to design an art piece to surround (read: hide) the scaffolding on the Little Building. Yoon Lee, who admitted she had never even been to Boston, let alone Emerson, told WECB she was paid “less than $50,000” to design the multicolored panel. 

It is baffling that, at an arts-focused school filled with creative students, administrators would drop thousands of dollars on something that could’ve been designed for free. Students were consulted after the fact, but only to select the words projected on the canvas. Granted, winning submissions included nonsensical phrases like “Necrophilia Snort Gazebo,” but at least it was #soemerson.  

And in the summer of 2013, WERS hired its first-ever professional radio host, George Knight, a move that provoked outcries that the student-run station was moving away from being, well, run by students. A further slight to students interested in gaining as much professional experience as possible came just weeks ago when WERS management announced its student managers would no longer be paid. Emerson students are here to learn by doing. Being sidelined on important opportunities, like a radio hosting gig at WERS, doesn’t allow students to accomplish that goal.

Even when Emerson gives students opportunities to contribute, they are too often for insignificant details, or the suggestions are ignored. When the C-Store in Little Building moved locations last year, the school decided to give students the opportunity to rename it. They even sweetened the deal by offering the winner a gift card to the store. But now that the store has been established, the name still appears to remain unchanged—both on the sign and the Emerson website. We don’t know if anyone won. This incredibly meager opportunity was devalued even more by the result.

Last year, when the Will & Grace set was taken from the library to be moved to the Los Angeles campus, the college asked students to submit ideas for the vacant spot. Instead of allowing students to apply their inventive design skills and elaborate ideas to make the room a useful and fun space, the administration took the matter into its own hands. Students came back from their summer to find a few modern-looking but uncomfortable chairs and a giant papier-mache tree taped along the glass window panes.

Emerson students would be keen to use their talents to better the school. It’s up to the administration to give them that chance, not just schlep it off to anyone that can be paid to use clip art.