By Emily Rosenberg
The University announced the new FSU logo in May 2023 as part of its rebranding mission and after years of discussions regarding an offensive representation of a Native American on the previous logo.
In concurrence with the update to the logo, the use of the University seal will be permanently suspended until a decision is made by the state regarding its seal, President Nancy Niemi said. In places where the University would typically use the seal, it will now use the logo.
The new logo depicts an image of two rams’ horns interlocking on a shield. The shield is black, and the horns are gold, which are FSU’s colors. The previous logo looked similar to the University seal and depicted an image of a Nipmuc Native American holding a bow and arrow pointing downward.
Niemi said she hopes that when new and prospective students see the new logo, they see the connectivity of the black and gold ram's horns, which she said lends itself to strength.
“I want them [students] to see themselves as strong and bold and then see that as truly distinctive to Framingham,” she added.
The difference between the seal and the logo is the logo “looks forward” to the University goals and the seal “looks back” on the University’s history. The logo is seen more often on University merchandise, signage, and letterheads, whereas the seal may be seen more often on flags, degree certificates, and official documents.
“We wanted [the logo] to be something that was entirely separate from the images that were on the seal - something modern, something bold, and something that spoke specifically to Framingham,” Niemi said.
Niemi said the decision to suspend the seal was to remain within the tradition of matching the state seal with the University seal. However, as it is not known when the state will make a decision, the University wanted to proactively stop using a seal that is considered offensive, racist, and does not appropriately represent Framingham State.
The state established the Special Commission Relative to the Seal and Motto of the Commonwealth to investigate the features of the official seal and motto of the Commonwealth and propose suggestions to the General Court in 2021. It voted to pursue a complete redesign in 2022.
The deadline for the commission to finalize its suggestions is November 15, 2023, and there is currently an active online survey for Massachusetts residents to provide feedback on what they would like to see on the new seal. After the commission finalizes its suggestions, the legislature must propose and pass a bill to be signed by the governor in order to change the seal officially. The legislature is not required to accept the commission's suggestions.
Once the state makes a decision regarding its seal, the University may or may not adopt a similar look for its seal, Niemi said.
She said as of now, departments have focused on easily replaceable and most immediate items that are frequently renewed such as business cards, uniforms, and letterheads.
“We’re going through as much as we can,” she said. However, it will take time.
In more permanent places where the seal is used (for example, on the engraved bricks outside of the Henry Whittemore Library), Niemi said her administration is still unsure when it will be removed because they don’t how long it will take for the state to finalize its seal.
She said although not everyone may agree with the new logo change, the administration had a “pretty good convergence of what people thought, by the end, particularly with regard to the logo and think the logo in combination with the suspension of the use of a seal really makes an important statement about who we are and what we're trying to do with our community.”
Jeffrey Coleman, vice president of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement, said the administration worked with Rebecca Hawk, former Director of Community Education and English Language Programs, who identifies as a member of the Native American community, who helped inform them of the history of discussions regarding the seal. He added Hawk informed them of a letter that the Nipmuc Tribal Council sent to the University in 2020 asking them to remove the image of the Native American from the Seal, which was never initially responded to.
Coleman said Hawk will be serving as a community liaison between the University and local community tribes.
He added DICE is working to secure other forms of representation of Native American heritage on campus. For example, DICE is collaborating with the Studio Art department to create visual land acknowledgements in the form of murals.
Coleman said the suspension of the seal and unveiling of the logo was a great time to reflect how to best represent Native American and tribal communities.
“I think that art draws people and engages people more so than a statement that people have to remember to read or stop to read or find on a website,” Coleman said.
The redesign of the logo is also part of a larger rebranding project that has involved redesigning the University marketing and admissions strategies and will include a complete redesign of the University website.
Averil Capers, director of marketing, said the University is working with the digital marketing company, Primacy, which specializes in Logo design. She said that going into the redesign process, the “goal was to create a logo that symbolizes FSU. We wanted to make sure that it resonated with the students and faculty and staff and also to align with our overall mission and goals.”
She added the values the logo is designed to reflect are “teamwork, unity, leadership, determination, connectivity with one another stability, strength, and courage.”
Capers added the University obtained feedback from various focus groups made up of faculty, staff, and students before making the final decision. A campus-wide survey obtaining anonymous feedback from the community was also sent out prior to the final vote on the logo.
The final decision was made by the University’s top executives and the Board of Trustees, but Capers said that it was not “made lightly.
“We all realized how important it was,” she added.
She said the new logo is “going to be the visual anchor of our brand identity. It's going to be a consistent and recognizable image that we hope and we envision will just be a presence in the minds of people that are our students and alumni - we want them to be proud of it.”
Capers said the rebranding of the logo may also give the University an opportunity to be more competitive. In reference to the campus-wide survey, she noted how it compared its boldness to other logos at FSU’s sister universities.
Daniel Magazu, director of communications, said the logo that was chosen was the logo that was most aligned with the results of the community feedback survey.
He added he understands that there are people who like the new logo and people who do not like it, especially as it is new, but he hopes people will become accustomed to it again and feel a sense of pride.
Student Trustee Ryan Mikelis said he does not understand the new logo because the rams' horns look as though they are clashing. He said he had heard from a professor who said that they wish students were more involved in the process of making the design.
“As far as I know, the only representation of students was through an online survey. I could be mistaken. There could have been more areas of representation that I was not informed about. But I submitted my responses on the online survey. And I think hundreds of other students did as well. And they could have had open forums about it. They could have had a chance for students to talk to the marketing department directly,” Mikelis said.
Deb Stewart Adams, a volunteer for Independent Association for Framingham State Alumni, said that she thought the new logo emphasizes what makes FSU unique through the use of the bold colors.
She added the logo looks “powerful and fresh.” Stewart Adams said IAFSA recently redesigned their logo as well, and found it fitting that the University did so as well. She said IAFSA worked with a logo class to design their logo, and something that was focused on in the class was the simplification of logos for the era of smartphones, which she found to be demonstrated in FSU’s new logo.
Michelle Chea, a junior, said, “Coming into the new year with the new semester with this logo - It definitely feels a little off-putting. So I did I kind of miss the old logo. It felt really iconic.”
Gabriel Delasantos, a sophomore, said the new logo “is a lot more appealing.” He said while he never thought about the logo representing community or boldness, he finds the new logo a lot more good looking, with a better color scheme.
Sasha Charmant, a junior, said she thought the new logo was “cute,” but that she didn’t really have a strong response to the design.
Hudson Maher, a freshman compared the new logo to macaroni and said it was difficult to tell the image depicted rams’ horns. “I think it's simple, but it's kind of hard to tell that it’s supposed to be rams’ horns. I think if you weren't from here, you would not be able to tell.”
SGA President Evelyn Campbell said that the new logo definitely fits the values of Framingham State a lot more, especially considering the concept of the old seal and logo.
She added, “We as a student population moving forward are very open-minded and are really representative of diversity and inclusion,” and the old seal did not represent that.