Think Cal Poly’s new logo is bad? Check out Cal Poly Pomona’s weird circle

See how Cal Poly’s logo has changed over the years

Cal Poly San Luis Obispo unveiled a new academic shield on April 30, 2019. Some say it resembles a Soviet hammer and sickle. Here's how the logo has evolved over the last century.
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Cal Poly San Luis Obispo unveiled a new academic shield on April 30, 2019. Some say it resembles a Soviet hammer and sickle. Here's how the logo has evolved over the last century.

Still unhappy with Cal Poly’s new logo?

Take heart. At least it has discernible images. There’s a sun. A mountain. A hammer. A feathery-looking thing that’s supposed to be a writing quill. And there are words — “Learn by Doing” — that are a clear reference to education.

Poor Cal Poly Pomona, meanwhile, is stuck with an industrial-looking circle, though the university insists on referring to it as an octagon.

Cal Poly Pomona’s new logo, unveiled last year, is an octagon representing eight academic colleges. Courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona

The eight segments are supposed to symbolize the “eight academic colleges and the eight elements of an inclusive polytechnic education.” The bit of yellow and green — the only colorful relief in an otherwise drab design — is meant to be an arrow, “to indicate movement and direction toward the future.”

If the logo didn’t include the name “Cal Poly Pomona,” it could be mistaken for an advertisement for any of the following: a software company; an intensely brutal weight-training program; a contraceptive; a series of dystopian young-adult novels; or insect repellant.

When the logo was unveiled last year, reaction at CCP (Cal Poly Pomona) was not good. (It didn’t help that CCP introduced a new motto at the same time: “Learn by Doing” was replaced with “I’m Ready.”)

At Pomona, there was instant online outrage. A petition asked the administration to reinstate the old logo, and people complained that the $210,000 the university spent on re-branding was a huge waste of money. Students suggested that graphic arts majors could have done a much better job, for considerably less.

Ultimately, though, the campaign to overthrow the logo failed.

In San Luis Obispo, Cal Poly students are making similar arguments, and they are equally adamant about ditching the logo. As of Wednesday, more than 7,000 had signed an online petition calling on the administration to abandon it.

Cal Poly’s new logo has been criticized as too simplistic — it’s been compared to a Boy Scout badge — and even worse, the quill and hammer design puts many in mind of the former Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle.

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Cal Poly unveiled its updated branding and new logo, bottom, on April 30, 2019, to replace the old logo, top. Courtesy of Cal Poly

At both Cal Poly campuses, students are asking why the logos needed to be changed in the first place.

Cal Poly SLO says it wanted a design to stand out more on digital devices, especially cell phones.

Cal Poly Pomona needed a do-over for a far different reason. The main element of its old logo — the iconic “pointy building” — was in danger of being bulldozed. If you want to outraged about a waste of money, read on.

Officially known as the Classroom, Laboratory and Administration Building, the pointy building was completed in 1993 at a cost of $24 million, according to the Poly Post. But it was abandoned after roughly 25 years of use due to structural flaws and because it sits atop an earthquake fault.

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Cal Poly Pomona’s old logo represented the “pointy building,” which is no longer in use. Courtesy of Cal Poly Pomona

CCP did recover $13 million after suing the contractor, but the replacement building cost $79 million. (The now-vacant pointy building is still standing because there are no funds to demolish it.)

The pointy building fiasco makes the $210,000 that Cal Poly Pomona spent on a new logo seem like pocket change.

But controversies over logos or slogans or academic seals aren’t all about the money. They are about identity and inclusion and a respect for tradition.

While universities do need to market themselves, there is a line they should not cross. A university doesn’t need a gimmick like a Nike Swoosh or a Starbucks mermaid.

Logos should be distinctive, but also dignified, and judging by the negative reactions to their re-branding efforts, neither Cal Poly got it right this time.

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