Logo Proposal Community Response
We are listening.
As many of you know, Mount Holyoke is currently working with an outside design firm on developing a new visual identity for the College.
We originally charged our design partners to be bold, modern and to differentiate Mount Holyoke from other colleges. More importantly, we asked the design firm to develop a visual identity that could speak to the College’s identity as a gender-diverse women’s college.
Guided by initial discussions with trustees, graduates, faculty, staff, alumnae and students, our partners also thought it important to express the important role that women’s colleges have played in exploring issues of gender, particularly with regard to populations that have typically been marginalized in society.
This past Thursday, we had the occasion to solicit feedback on the design firm’s identity work from a group of students. We listened to feedback regarding the use of the Venus symbol as an option for the brand identity and logo, as proposed by the consultants. It is now evident to us that this symbol has a long history of exclusion connected to movements that, while trailblazing for some groups, represents the erasure of others.
We have thus determined that the College cannot move forward with a word mark that references this symbol as we rethink how we will distinguish Mount Holyoke College. While it is always disappointing to realize that our creative work has not achieved its goals, it is deeply upsetting to realize that the work is seen as offensive and damaging.
Regardless of our intent, learning that the impact of the work is offensive, painful or damaging reminds us why it is so important to solicit opinion and input from members of the community who care so deeply about the College and how it is represented.
Moments like these that remind each of us of the important work that remains ahead. This is bigger than conversations of logos and color palettes. The questions surrounding the identity of the College speak not only to how we represent ourselves visually but also the ways in which we engage one another.
And as the leader of the communications and marketing office, I feel it is vitally important that the work we produce celebrates the broad diversity of our institution without tokenizing or marginalizing any members of our community.
As people who work and study at a women’s college, we are all deeply committed to gender equity and justice. Our commitment to being a trans-inclusive space is critically important to who we are as a campus community. We recognize that Mount Holyoke is evolving and has much work to do in demonstrating its support for the diversity of genders and perspectives represented by the students, faculty, staff, and alumnae of the institution.
At one point during Thursday’s presentation to students, it was suggested that the people in charge of rebranding had heard the students in earlier presentations, but that we had not been listening. That is criticism that I take to heart. Our team is going to take a step back in the design process, both to more fully engage the community in a conversation about what it means to be a gender-diverse women’s college and to re-envision the ways in which we solicit feedback and participation in the design process.
As we start the new year, we look forward to reconnecting with students who volunteered to continue advising us on this process as well as others who might be interested. In addition to creating a formal student design advisory board, we will also solicit more regular feedback from graduates, faculty, and staff.
This current process has also pointed out a need for a more formal means by which feedback can be shared with the communications and marketing team. As we develop this process, I encourage interested parties to continue to reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I may not be able to respond to each email individually, but I sincerely appreciate the feedback.
On behalf of the College, I am grateful for your insight and thoughtfulness in being willing to interrogate the brand development. We hope you know that your feedback is vital to us.
And as the leader of the communications and marketing team, I always seek to fulfill the College’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion by assuring that what we produce supports a future that is bold, distinctive and affirms gender variance as a core part of the human experience — and particularly at Mount Holyoke College.
Charles L. Greene II
Vice President, Office of Communications and Marketing
The proposed logo for Mount Holyoke College.