SUSU Vs. Us – The Rebranding

I had planned to give myself a week off from writing to focus on exams, knuckle down, that kind of thing. Unfortunately, it was not to be. This is due to one of the most controversial, and in some cases horrifying, story to grip our grand University this academic year. For those of you who have have your head buried in the sand (or perhaps just don’t follow Wessex Scene or Soton Tab on twitter), I am talking of course about the SUSU rebrand.

 

The excitement was palpable for what the new Union would unveil
The excitement was palpable for what the new Union would unveil

 

On Saturday afternoon, the Soton Tab published an article purporting to show the finalised material from the recent £23,000 rebrand of our Student Union. This article immediately generated a massive amount of traction online, with comments sections on Facebook exploding as students from all years shared their opinions. Approximately an hour later, the Wessex Scene published an article refuting the claim of their competitors, suggesting the the final re-brand would be unveiled on Monday, including a quote from out-going President Ben Franklin saying much the same thing. Unfortunately for Ben and the now newly-named Student Union, it was too little too late. The student community had exploded into voice, with even Change.org petition appearing, hoping to reverse the rebrand altogether. It seemed quite clear from these early reactions that a distinct body of students fell into the category of “against” this rebranding.

This one of the pictures reported by the Soton Tab, showing the new signage on the Stag's Head (Photo Credit: Soton Tab)
This one of the pictures reported by the Soton Tab, showing the new signage on the Stag’s Head (Photo Credit: Soton Tab)

To add fuel to the already-raging fire however, early Sunday morning (…well it was early for me, okay?) the Wessex Scene struck again. This time, the Student-Union funded outlet were able to report that the logos for the entire redesign had been leaked, and were now available for students to pore over, hopefully with the same intensity they did over the new gramatically-questionable signage for The Stag’s Head. The Wessex Scene article contains a lot of very specific details as to how the new branding will work, and the alleged diversity of the logo. Interestingly, it has gained a lot more traction than the perhaps sensationalist, and traffic-funded (hmm…anyone see the problem here?) writings of another local paper.

This is the new logo of Us, as reported by the Wessex Scene on Sunday Morning (Photo Credit: Wessex Scene)
This is the new logo of Us, as reported by the Wessex Scene on Sunday Morning (Photo Credit: Wessex Scene)

So we can now see the design in full. Perhaps the first thing most have noticed, and many have become immediately appalled by, is the name, Us. This stands for “Union Southampton” and is believed to represent the inclusivity of an organisation which is in place to support all students across one of the largest Higher Education institutions in Britain. This did not sit well with many, as they pointed out that the new name didn’t even make sense. However, this majority were nowhere near as outspoken when the Wessex Scene actually broke the news of the name, roughly two months ago. The other issue people appear to have taken with the redesign is the new signs outside Building 40 and The Stag’s Head, which are minimalist in style (putting in politely) and are just black and white…at the moment. Many appear to question whether or not £23,000 was necessary to spend to produce these more simplistic signs. Although, we can perhaps sympathise with those behind the redesign, after the success *cough cough* of the recently re-imaginged Instagram Logo. I won’t talk anymore about the branding, as I everything I can tell you is included in the Wessex Scene article linked to in the paragraph above, and the next pieces of concrete information will be available on Monday, directly from Us (that’s the Union for those who may refuse to acknowledge the new name).

Update: I should include here, true to inclusivity, that the Soton Tab have now also got their hands on the material from the re-design, and offered their own interpretation of it. That article is available here: http://thetab.com/uk/soton/2016/05/15/heres-new-susu-logo-really-2means-66037

The other rebranding controversy of the week, although it's arguably generated less Social Media chatter than Union Southampton's
The other rebranding controversy of the week, although it’s arguably generated less Social Media chatter than Union Southampton’s

Now, that’s the chronology dealt with, phew. Definitely a “big-news” weekend here at the University of Southampton. It is not my job to tell you how to feel about the redesign, because clearly everyone will have their own opinion and reaction to the new brand that now represents “Us” (no pun intended). However what I can and will do, is share with you some of these opinions which, who knows, may enable you to see the argument from a different point of view, or just make you more angry! Starting with two members of our very own Co-Design group (could be an interesting next meeting with these two gunning for each other!)

Zak Rakrouki:

“This is just ridiculous! It’s so impersonal and doesn’t even have “university” in the title. This is change for the sake of change. What a waste of time, money (£23,000) and effort. Shame on SUSU, sorry, – Us. “

Thomas Rowledge:

“It seems somewhat ironic that despite repeated attempts by the Student Union to involve students in every step of the process, people only participate when the decision has been made – there has been a huge overreaction to the unfinished logos being unveiled, and the rebrand can only serve to better the Student Union in the future”

So you can see quite the polar opposites in opinion there, and we can also see them right across the student body. Take the text taken from the Change.org petition description, courtesy of Mayan Al-Shakarchy:

SUSU’s rebrand is dismal. Black & white. Removing the original “SUSU” to “US.” This is our Union’s attempt to save its low NSS score. But the lack of student engagement and opinion towards its new rebrand is disappointing.

…versus the words of Michael Oliver, Deputy Editor of the Wessex Scene, in his opinion piece for the publication:

What has struck me about the often passionate responses to the changes to the brand of the Union (which isn’t even finished yet!) is that people do care what the Union does. So why, then, are people so keen to criticize the results and bitch about it on social media when the vast majority didn’t make an effort to alter or even prevent the brand changes coming through? Rather predictably, the answer is laziness.

An image produced to go alongside an online petition to reverse the branding.
An image produced to go alongside an online petition to reverse the branding.

I could quote you the opinions of many other people for pages and pages (and probably pages and pages more by the time I’ve finished this article) however, for both me writing this and SUSU Us (make your own mind up, but the new name doesn’t half make it harder to refer to!) who have to negotiate the impending storm, the most important opinion is yours. Please comment below if the redesign has stoked up your sense of democratic responsibility, which quite frankly it definitely should have, or even better if you want to write a piece for this blog, please get in touch with me.

Thank you for reading, and please do share your opinions! I wrote this on a Sunday for goodness sake, don’t I deserve some interaction?! ;)

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