The graphic guidelines for USF’s logo could soon change, said university officials during a recent meeting with The Oracle. But that doesn’t mean the logo’s appearance will change. Instead, Karen Clarke, associate vice president in the Office of Public Affairs, said policy changes are being considered that will reflect the way the logo is currently used, on and off campus.
According to the University Identity Standards, a 17-page guidebook that outlines the graphic standards for logo use at USF, “The USF mark is a carefully designed combination of a logo incorporating the letters ‘USF’ and the ‘USF signature.’ — the University of South Florida name.”
In the past, including the university’s name with the logo helped to distinguish the mark from other USF-initialed entities such as the University of San Francisco or Universal Studios Florida. But the university has now reached the point that the USF mark may be able to stand on its own, said Clarke.
“Where we are right now is the rules say you can never print USF without the name,” Clarke said. “The reason behind that was that there was a widespread belief that people wouldn’t know what USF meant, what it stands for. We’ve reached a point in the growth level and stature of this university that I think a lot of people know exactly what USF means, what it stands for. Personally … I think we’re to the point where we probably could allow USF to stand alone.”
But to the casual observer, the USF logo has been standing alone for years, especially on campus where graphic standards are rarely adhered to. The water tower features the USF logo without the university name. So do Red McEwen field and numerous construction signs around campus. Even USF athletic teams display the USF logo without the name on their jerseys.Although Clarke said she sees a problem with the current usage, her office is hesitant to step up enforcement of the current policy until other considerations are made.
“Once it’s OK to ignore those guidelines, then it’s sort of an anarchy that you create from that,” Clarke said. “And that’s problematic for me. So yes, we do have some problems with inappropriate use on campus. We have to look at balance though. Do I want to be the official cop of the University of South Florida? Or do I want to make sure that the logo is versatile enough that it is applicable and easily used in a lot of different situations that people need?”
Clarke’s comments came after The Oracle reported in September that the university’s logos were being mismanaged by both the Office of Public Affairs and the athletic department, resulting in several local businesses using the mark without official approval. USF has three trademarks to represent the school: the diamond bull logo, the USF logo and the school’s official seal.
In order to print any of these marks in promotional materials, businesses must have a signed approval from either Clarke or the associate director of athletics, Tom Veit.
In the past, approval came from Marilyn Stephens, director of publications in the Office of Public Affairs and, unofficially, through ESPN regional, a company that helps with university marketing efforts and currently owns certain trademark rights.
Veit, who was also present at the meeting with Clarke, said ESPN will no longer be approving logo usage.
“The way it is now is anything that goes out comes across my desk,” Veit said. “If ESPN is doing it, it’s got to get final approval through athletics before it can go back out the door.”
Though Stephens could not be reached for comment, Clarke said that she will continue to approve logo usage in certain situations.
“We are in a period of transition, so the guidelines for logo use at this point are not always crystal clear,” Clarke said. “Many of those times when it’s kind of a black and white issue, it’s real clear, and Marilyn can make those decisions. And she’s perfectly capable of making those calls.”
Clarke and Veit both attributed the current problems with logo use to the growth of the university as a whole.
“The use of the logo and the demand for the logo over the last few years has grown exponentially as the university has,” Veit said. “These were issues that no one’s ever had to really deal with because there weren’t that many people using the logo.”
Clarke emphasized the transition USF faces as it gains more prominence.
“We’re kind of in a transition period from a period of time where our number one priority was just to get our name out there in whatever way we (could) to now that mark having some real value,” she said. “And trying to manage that a little better creates some situations for us that we’re working on.”
Re-writing the graphic guidelines for the USF logo is part of that effort, added Clarke, but before any policy changes go into effect she and Veit will be taking their time in determining the most appropriate modifications.
“Instead of just sort of a knee-jerk reaction and going in and revising policy, … I’m going around and asking people about their needs related to logo use so that when we write specific policy, it takes those kinds of applications into consideration,” Clarke said.
She added that she plans on finishing with her inquiries by the end of this calendar year so that she can move forward with changes next spring.
Veit outlined a more fluid timeline.
“I think it’s a work in progress,” he said. “I don’t think Jan. 1, boom, we have a bunch of things in place. I think as we go we’re developing a strategy on how to do it. Because, again, we’re a highly successful and very fast-paced university right now and things will change. The demands of our logo today could be completely different from the demands seven months from now, so we have to create things that are flexible and are able to flow.”
Regardless of the outcome, however, Clarke, who came to USF eight months ago from the University of Miami, heralded the current logo situation as a historic occasion for the school.
“The fact that there is a demand for the Bull, what a fabulous milestone for USF,” Clarke said. “We’ve reached the point where people want to use it, they want to put it on things because they perceive that by putting our logo on something they have it enhances their value. That’s a great, great thing for this university.”