Western Washington University recently released a brand new logo. As a Western alumnus, I hate to admit I am a little confused by it.
The logo is part of a larger rebranding the university is conducting to be more competitive in gaining new students, grants, donations, and state funding. Western wants, as any organization does, to put its best foot forward. So, Western officials conducted surveys and discussions to determine what qualities the community felt were Western's strongest. They discovered the school's location between mountains and Puget Sound and surrounded on all sides by natural beauty were what most members of the community agreed on. So they picked a logo prominently displaying Whatcom County's Mount Baker above abstract waves.
I would have to agree that Western's location is a major draw, or at least it was for me. I fondly remember views of Bellingham Bay, Sehome Hill, the Chuckanuts, the San Juans, and the mountains north of Vancouver, B.C. I would have to agree that any logo should prominently include the natural beauty visible from all sides of the school.
My only gripe with it is that the new logo doesn't do anything of the sort. You can't see Mount Baker from Western.
The school sits in a valley between two hills, and the view of Baker is obscured by Sehome Hill to the east. There is only one part of Western that I know of where you can actually see Baker. From the upper floors of Buchanan Towers, a dorm so far from the main campus they used to run a shuttle bus to it, Baker barely manages to poke the very top of its peak from behind the limb of Sehome Hill as if it were John Belushi spying on the undergrads, trying not get caught.
My point is that in order to experience the natural beauty that the new logo represents, you have to leave campus. It's like putting the Space Needle into UW's logo. Sure, its nearby. You can go to it if you want, and its visible from nearby neighborhoods, but you can't really see it from the school.
The mountain is more associated in my memory with Bellingham than the school within its borders. To me, the logo says, "Western is in Bellingham." In fact, it's eerily reminiscent of the City of Bellingham's logo, even more so to a controversial and recently rejected replacement.
It's a pity they chose Baker because Western has so much natural beauty right on campus. The Sehome Hill Arboretum, the very feature that blocks Western's view of Baker, is covered in green, natural forest, and it's right there. No place on campus is more than a few minutes from a nature walk. Some students I knew even hiked to school.
A better logo would have been an abstract drawing of Old Main beneath a green arc representing the arboretum. You have strong academics symbolized by Old Main, and the natural beauty symbolized by Sehome. That would have said more about Western's sense of place than a rendering of a distant mountain you can't even see from the school.