New brand spurs strong reaction over outbound ad firms, $300k price tag

The University of Detroit Mercy did a year’s worth of research and spent $300,000 for two out-of-state design firms to create a new brand that has received mixed reviews by students and alumni.

The re-branding – the first since the University of Detroit and Mercy College merged in 1990 – was unveiled last month at the annual Celebrate Spirit mass. A new logo features a blue Old English M tucked inside a red D, and the university scrapped its old “We want great things for you” tagline in favor of “build a boundless future.”


In addition, the university is doing away with its UDM acronym and wants to be referred to as Detroit Mercy.


The reaction – especially to the logo – was almost immediate. Some praised the design as a refreshing change from the previous bland, boxy logo, while other lampooned it as cartoonish and amateur, questioning why an outside firm was tapped to create it.


“Breaking news: Out of town agency phones in play on Olde English D logo for UDM. I won't be adding anything with this to my alumni gear,” a Facebook user identified as Fred Klein wrote.


 A well-known satirical UDM Facebook page even photoshopped the iPhone poop emoji in place of the “M” in a post that has received 79 likes as of press time.


“Change is hard for people and not everyone will like everything,” President Antoine Garibaldi told The Varsity News. ”There's some people that are attached to the old, but we are a part of the new.”


Garibaldi said the new logo and tagline are meant to reinforce the university’s four key messages: great academics, great Jesuit and Mercy values, great American city, and great outcomes. He said the university recast the brand in a “very methodical kind of way,” through focus groups with alumni and donors, community leaders and employers, prospective undergraduate students as well as current students, faculty and staff.


After talking with more than five companies with extensive experience in higher education branding, a university selection committee brought their choices to Garibaldi and his council, who then chose two companies: Pittsburgh-based BD&E and Virginia-based SimpsonScarborough.


These companies helped find what distinguishes Detroit Mercy from other educational institutions, and used that as key factor in the new branding, Garibaldi said. He believes the new logo embodies the traditions of the two founding schools and has a more collegiate appeal.


This whole rebranding process cost the university about $300,000, and Garibaldi said that money came from earmarked funds and the university’s yearly marketing budget.


Troy Bowman, an architecture major, had hoped the university would've used design ideas from the College of Architecture.


“I like the idea of getting a new logo, but I don't like the design personally,” he said. “There's a great master's program in architecture that they could of used for free in designing the new logo.”


The re-branding means changes for the athletic department, too. The athletic teams will keep their sword and shield logo, but will add “Mercy” to the phrase “Detroit Titans.”

Although some team still use the old logo, the university will phase it out on all uniforms in the coming years. The basketball teams, for example, just received practice gear with “Detroit Mercy” branding.


"We're branded together as one school and I think that is great,” said PJ Gradowski, director of athletic communications. “This will help all of us keep one identity. We have a lot of different names that people refer to us by and I think if we can all come together, we can help to push our brand more effectively,”


Hank Durkin, a member of the class of 1973 and former editor of The Varsity News, said he likes that the new logo represents the heritage of the university's founding schools.


“When I go out and get the new (merchandise), it all says ‘established in 1877’ which means we're taking the whole university back to the very beginning,” he said.


Seneé Shearer, a member of the class of 2014 and former women’s basketball player, said she wasn’t sure about the logo at first, “but the more I see it, I like it more.”


Theatre Major Savanah Wright, doesn't like the new logo at all, and she thinks the D looks like the iconic logo of the Detroit Tigers.

“The more I see it, I guess the more I have to live with it,” she said.