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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Sep. 14, 2018 10 months ago

Leader's bull run ends with logo debate

The University of South Florida gets a contentious makeover as its longtime president announces her retirement.

Judy Genshaft’s long tenure of leadership at the University South Florida will conclude next year.

USF's new academic logo, designed by Spark, a Tampa ad agency. Courtesy photo.

Genshaft, 69, has served as USF’s system president since 2000 — a span that includes monumental progress for the university’s enrollment, endowment and rankings.

But the announcement of her retirement, set for July 2019, comes on the heels of an uproar over the university’s new academic logo, revealed Sept. 5, which has been slammed for its neon-green color and resemblance to the Merrill Lynch bull.

Tampa advertising firm Spark designed the logo, which does not replace USF Athletics’ well-known “Bull U” logo. Thom VanderKlipp, USF’s assistant vice president of marketing, says the idea behind the new logo for academics was to create “one master brand that works at multiple levels for the different colleges, for the different campuses.” 

VanderKlipp says the far-flung nature of the USF community — with campuses in Tampa, St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee — naturally led to the proliferation of dozens of logos and marks over the years. The new look is an attempt to rectify what USF saw as the dilution of its brand, he says.

Reaction to the makeover, though, has been decidedly mixed.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the USF community so united as they are with keel-hauling the new logo,” tweets Carl Zee, a USF alum who writes for the Daily Stampede, a website that covers USF sports.

VanderKlipp tells Coffee Talk that more explanation and context for USF’s new look will be forthcoming, with communication ramping up to coincide with homecoming festivities next month, and that the university is listening to feedback. Rolling out the new logo amid the start of the new semester and Genshaft’s retirement wasn’t ideal, he adds, but major identity change for large public organizations is rarely easy or smooth.

“Part of our brand is to think different,” says VanderKlipp. “You don’t go to USF to go to a staid, stodgy institution, and we don’t want to look like every other university out there.”

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