Principal says yes to rebrand, no to King’s London – but College Council will have final say

Johnny Tam / Roar News

THE fate of ‘King’s London’ hangs in the balance tonight — with a final decision on the proposed brand to be made College Council “as soon as possible”, Principle Ed Byrne confirmed this evening.

Ed accepted that ‘King’s London’ didn’t work, but came one step short of an official announcement during an open forum on the plans.

He also added: “I would personally like to look at the use of the acronym KCL if we don’t decide to go with King’s London,” although branding chief Maxine Taylor said ‘KCL’ would be harder to promote.

There was almost unilateral agreement on rebranding in principle – but most thought King’s London was not the way forward.

When asked if he would theoretically attend UCL over King’s, Ed stood silently for a few minutes until the audience burst into laughter.

After a tense few moments, Ed answered non-committally saying: “I think they’re both great schools” and “I’m being honest”.

Afterwards he told Roar that he would send his child to King’s, but still didn’t answer for himself.

Education vice president Karen O’Brien said: “We take the views of our students extremely seriously. We wouldn’t knowingly trample on the views of our students or our academic staff.”

KCLSU president Sebastiaan Debrouwere said he hoped this was the beginning of a new culture at King’s: “I think this fora is fantastic. I hope that this will become the rule, because too often it has been the exception to the rule.”

 

Analysis from the editor

“It might grow on me,” Ed tentatively told Roar in December.

Well, it clearly hasn’t. Despite firmly fighting for the concept of rebranding, Ed didn’t once defend ‘King’s London’ today.

But he emotionally bit back at the accusation that he wasn’t “taking responsibility” after he repeatedly said he “hadn’t been at King’s long” [about four months].

Ed was less chaotic this evening — and he’d been briefed on a suitable ‘yes/no’ question for the straw poll, which went much smoother than this afternoon, albeit with the same result.

Even in the couple of hours between Strand and Guy’s, he’d re-evaulated and consolidated ideas raised in the first forum.

By 5pm it had dawned on Ed that King’s London is all but dead – and he refocused the conversation accordingly, testing the strength of feeling about a rebrand in principle.

He was met with understanding and general agreement.

We’re only just peeling our hands away from our faces after the excruciating KCL/UCL moment.

But the incident did show that he’s happy to go against every PR principle, ignore his job title and drastically underwhelm, just in order to express a potentially bland or upsetting truth.

1 Comment

  1. TRT

    14 January, 2015 at 2:45 pm

    Notes from the forum:

    “King’s London” was universally derided by the audience and rightly so. The fact that it got as far as it did smacks of a hidden agenda, as did their comparative branding exercise which was blatantly engineered to show King’s in a bad light.

    I can’t find the Powerpoint they showed online anywhere, but it seemed to me that they highlighted the non-cohesive look of the (IMHO far too numerous) King’s publications as being a branding problem during a Powerpoint presentation in which almost every single slide had a different layout. Incidentally those slides were bracketed by two slides demonstrating the most appalling use of white, blocked upper-case type on a photographic background ever seen. Breaking virtually every rule of legibility seems to be the brand communications modus operandi. One has to wonder at the root cause of the problems they identified. From where I was sitting, it looked like they should be handing in their notices for not having done their jobs in the past.

    The brief foray into various rebranding exercises revealed one thing only – the previously “artistic” elements of university identities were being replaced with defined typographic stylings. King’s College is starting from the position of already having a uniquely styled typography-only logo. There are two problems with the existing King’s logo. Firstly, it is predominantly square, even more so since they dropped the “Established 1829” from it. This reduces its utility in on-screen design, though the cutting edge of design for on-screen appears to be favouring tiles rather than banners e.g. Windows “Metro” UI. The exception to this rule was Bournemouth University, which raised a peal of laughter from the audience.
    Secondly, the typeface outlines simply do not render well on-screen as they were designed primarily for print – modifications of already existing typefaces owned by a Sheffield foundry of all places (Stephenson Blake). Perhaps a typeface more commonly associated with London and with proper on-screen metrics would be better, like Gill Sans (as used by TfL who also use the more distinctive Johnston, but that is still copyrighted and use is restricted).

    The core administration of the university has a reputation for being overbearing, controlling and dictatorial – a self-defeating attitude as their lack of flexibility causes individuals and departments to step out of line in order to overcome the obstacles that restrictive practice presents. A case to note is the dreadful “Fisher Price Cot Toy” website with its sliding panels and pop-up activities. This was forced on departments and researchers alike, one-size-fits-all, replacing in some cases, innovative, individual, functional and highly automated sites. It made no use whatsoever of already existing data systems, forcing double, triple and even quadruple data entry practices on administrative and technical personnel leading to an explosion in the required staffing levels for maintaining a web presence.

    I utterly fail to accept that the standing of institutions termed “College” is confused both in overseas and domestic circles. The School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) has its own degree awarding powers and markets itself very successfully indeed, especially overseas, yet refers to itself only as a School, not even a College. If this is a genuine finding, then I suggest that it is our overseas ambassadors that are failing to get the message across rather than a fault in the existing brand.

    Ed appeared to be setting a new goal for the rebranding which is to find a new strapline. Obviously not satisfied with “standing on the shoulders” for an expanded use (it is more of a campaign slogan than an institutional identity), might I suggest appealing again to the considerable history of the institution and using something like London’s Premier University, being one of the two founding colleges of the University of London and I believe the first London college to be chartered.

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