RIP to the next victim of The Institute's brand identity refresh: The Buzzcard.
In September 2021, Georgia Tech revealed a new brand identity - logos, icons, and supporting symbols - to unify all of its visual assets under one cohesive design. A realignment of the proper usage of the Georgia Tech logo was overdue. Tech has long struggled with inconsistent colors, stroke thicknesses, and even "Bootleg Buzzes" in its iconography on merchandise, print, and digital. However, Tech's approach to resolving this issue went way beyond reorientating existing identifying marks. Instead, a bold over-simplification method led to replacing the beloved Kessler Campanile Statue icon (nicknamed "The Shaft") on the academic logo with the formerly exclusive-to-athletics interlocking GT and the sunsetting of the wide bold font with a softer serifed font. This change led to a small protest on Tech Green and an uproar on social media, including a petition and uncharitable memes on Reddit.
Making such an aggressive change to Georgia Tech's primary identifying mark has required a thorough and ongoing updating of all of Georgia Tech's online and print communications, building signs, lecture podiums, merchandise, Stinger busses, and now, the Buzzcard. On Tuesday, August 8, the Georgia Tech Student Engagement and Well-Being @gatechlife Instagram account posted a teaser video of the forthcoming Buzzcard redesign. In the video, Buzz shows off the new card to surprised students. The card is held at a distance, waved around quickly, and intentionally pixelated at parts to avoid spoiling the reveal; however, the graphic design team at The Jacket was able to get just enough visual information from the video to create a likely mockup of the new Buzzcard that follows the guidelines of the Georgia Tech Brand Book. Upon further research, they discovered the anticipated Buzzcard design on the online portfolio of Mark Ziemer, a lead designer on Georgia Tech's branding creative team, confirming their recreation.
Introducing: The New Buzzcard Design
The new design will feature Tech's Navy Blue #003057 as the base color and finally utilize Tech Gold #B3A369 rather than the predecessor's dated Buzz Gold #EAAA00. The overall arrangement of the card will remain the same, with the Buzzcard name, Georgia Institute of Technology extended academic logo, cardholder's name, and GTID number on the left and the cardholder's image and affiliation on the right. Most notably, the 2021 logo finally appears on these new Buzzcards to be issued to first-years this Fall. And are those rhombuses in the top right corner? This choice, though allowed under the new brand identity, may be the most unexpected design decision of the card. The Yellow Jackets have been traditionally associated with the hexagon honeycomb patterns, and while solid rounded hexagons are the primary shape listed in the brand book, the rhombus mosaic was still favored by the designers.
The Saga of the Infamous New Logo (Opinion)
It Started with the Athletics
Georgia Tech Athletics first announced its new brand "refinement" five years ago in April 2018, ahead of its groundbreaking partnership with Adidas commencing on July 1. The interlocking GT is the most recognized symbol of Georgia Tech, but poor consistency resulted in 40 different acceptable combinations of fill, stroke, and background colors. The Athletic Department's new branding guide consolidated the color combinations to 8 and helped uniformize the logo. According to gtathl.com:
[The] interlocking GT will now only be displayed with our primary colors on the inside: white and gold. A blue accent outline can help define the logo on light-colored or gold backgrounds while maintaining the integrity of the mark.
Updating the interlocking GT logo was not the only change. A new wordmark for "GEORGIA TECH" is now evident on players' uniforms, playing surfaces, and communications. White and Gold were reasserted as the school's official primary colors, and Navy Blue as the secondary color. Black is no longer used on colored logos. Buzz Gold, the bright yellow that matches the mascot's fur and has been in use since at least 1964, was retired from use in Georgia Tech Athletic's graphics.
'Helvetica' Engineer: The Old Georgia Tech Logo 1996 - 2021
The Campanile logo was introduced in 1996, ahead of the Summer Olympics. The Kessler Campanile, an 80-foot, stainless steel twisted obelisk, was designed by University of georgia graduate Richard Hill. It was erected in front of the Wenn Student Center (now John Lewis Student Center) to evoke an abstract image of Tech Tower and mark a central point on Tech's campus. John Butler, writing for the 1996 Spring edition of the North Avenue Review, didn't mind the Campanile iconography. His criticism was in the fact that the text was written in an artificially widened version of Helvetica Heavy. In the extended version of the logo, "Georgia" and "Tech" had a solid fill, but "Institute of" and "nology" were outlined, making the logo virtually unreadable when very small or when far away.
Georgia Tech Conducts a Survey
In early 2021, an internal coalition of campus brand stewards, consisting of designers, communicators, and personnel from academic and operational sectors of the Institute, undertook the task of revitalizing the visual identity brand. Atlanta-based brand agency Matchstic was hired to evaluate the brands of other Universities. The team explored Georgia Tech's visual heritage, combined with examining alumni and audience surveys and market research data from Institute Communications.
In April 2021, a survey encompassing campus audiences and alumni confirmed that the interlocking GT symbol was widely recognized as representative of the entire Institute.
Curiously, the chosen symbol had been traditionally associated with athletics, despite the survey focusing on the broader recognition rather than the symbol's relevance to academics.
Perhaps if this distinction had been considered, a different approach to the new logo would have been taken. From May to July 2021, the creative team designed concepts for the logo with the interlocking GT symbol as the anchor point. Simultaneously, the revised concepts were presented to constituencies across campus during the summer months for feedback. The final designs were presented by President Ángel Cabrera at his Fall Institute Address on September 2nd.
It's pretty bad. Not many students have said that he or she prefers the new logo to the old one. An advertisement on the jumbotron revealing the new logo was cut short after getting booed at a home football game. Graduates agreed online, "Please don't let this be on our diplomas." Thankfully, the Institute seal, also now flattened and simplified, is printed on the diploma rather than the sports logo.
Alignment and Proportions
Amateur graphic design artists and students with no design training took to Reddit, Instagram, and Twitter to discuss everything wrong with the redesign. What no one can understand is the proportions and alignment of the glyphs. "Georgia" and "Tech" are aligned differently and seemingly arbitrarily on the horizontal and vertical versions of the logo. Why isn't this text properly aligned?
Two Registered Trademark Symbols
What's up with the two registered symbols '®' in the logo? Both "Georgia Tech" and the interlocking GT icon are registered trademarks separately when usually the icon and wordmark are just registered as one in organizations' full primary logos. This may have been an overlooked mistake.
The Ivy League of the South and Prestige
Georgia Tech has been coined "the Ivy League of the South," and this is a reputation indeed in the Institute's best interest. The Campanile logo felt much more academically prestigious than using the athletic logo. Except for Stanford, you don't see Ivy League Universities using their athletic logos (if they have one) on academic matters.
If MIT, one of our biggest competitors, announced they were using its sports logo to represent its entire university, I will issue a heartfelt apology to Georgia Tech and those who mutilated our brand.
The Campanile Logo Could Have Been Fixed
Yes, the extended Campanile logo was a bit quirky, with the outdated outlines and widened font, but that design wasn't wholly unsalvagable. Filling in the lettering and either removing the emphasis on "Georgia Tech" out of "Georgia Institute of Technology" or embracing the distinction by using a bi-color design, with "Georgia" and "Tech" in gold and the rest in white, with no outlines would have appropriate. See the example towards the end of this article.
Abandoning an Icon
The Campanile, like the University of georgia's arch displayed on its academic logo, is a central, unifying landmark on campus that represents the university as a whole.
Abandoning the Campanile symbol was as shocking as the ill-fated 'New Coke' reformulation. The original was better.
The Campanile has been affectionately called "The Shaft," a reference to the difficulty of the curriculum at Tech, and therefore is a special part of Georgia Tech lore and traditions. Maybe that was the reason The Institute wanted the Campanile removed from the logo, in which case, we only have ourselves to blame.
The new font resembles one that an elementary STEM school would use, not one used for the primary identity of a respected and renowned academic institution. Honestly, Tech would have saved a lot more time and effort if they just went with comic sans. This achieves about the same effect as a curvey serifed font.
In Memoriam of the Campanile Logo (1996 - 2021)
Above: A compilation of images showing the old logo on various structures and objects around campus. For the items that have already been updated, such as banners, department signage, and lecture podiums, before and after images are shown. All rights for these photographs belong to Georgia Tech.
The New Buzzcard Design isn't that bad, but it could be better.
Removing all of that bright yellow was a good call. The colors on the card complement each other quite well, and older students might be jealous of the first-years that will be issued these more aesthetic cards. Using the Tech Gold and Navy Blue stripe pattern on Buzz rather than the traditional Buzz Gold and black may take a little getting used to, but it can be tolerated. Yet, the new logo and rhombuses in the corner are absolutely unforgivable. Perhaps a design more faithful to Georgia Tech's traditions could include the Campanile Georgia Institute of Technology extended academic logo, with a solid white fill, the campanile and "Georgia Tech" accented in Tech Gold, and a more dense and slightly angled honeycomb mosaic, in contrast to the current design, growing from the corner.
What's Left to Be Done?
Almost two full years later, there are only a few places to find the old Campanile academic logo. Probably the next on the chopping block is the sign on the top of the Coda Building, though it was installed as recently as four years ago. Some building signs and perhaps some lecture podiums have not been replaced yet. The Technology Square sign also adorns a variation of the old official Institute logo. These, too, will be gone soon, but the last stand for the old logo will likely be on the sides of the decades-old white GT Facilities, departmental, and rental vehicles that limp around campus. It's with these aging vehicles and our broken hearts that the old Georgia Tech logo's memory will live on. //
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