GW will get a new look for George Washington’s birthday that administrators hope will unify the image of different campus departments and reproduce more readily for advertising.
Featuring a portrait of the University’s namesake, the new logo will be unveiled at a ceremony Feb. 22. It has already appeared on some advertisements and promotional material.
Administrators said they began hunting for a new logo three years ago to distinguish GW from other “Washington” schools and capitalize on George Washington’s name and likeness.
“He’s our best asset,” said Mike Freedman, vice president for communications. “We thought it’d be great if we started using George Washington’s image instead of just words.”
The new logo, designed by Concept Foundry of Bethesda, Md., and GW Graphic Design, has four variations to fit different graphical needs.
The main logo is based on a portrait of George Washington by American artist Rembrandt Peale, with the words “The George Washington University Washington DC” underneath. This image is already in use on the “90 Years in Foggy Bottom” banners on lampposts around campus.
Other versions include a portrait next to the words, for use when the vertical orientation is not appropriate, and plain text in the shape of a square or line.
“It’s a great system,” GW Graphic Design director Kelly Livezey said. “Rather than having one way, the (current) word-mark, we have different options.”
The old logo, with “The George Washington University” displayed on three lines of type, will be phased out and replaced on new GW structures and stationery but will remain on more permanent items like buildings.
Freedman said the University is urging departments to use up their existing stock with the old logo instead of throwing them out in favor of items with the new logo.
“We don’t want to waste any money on this,” he said.
The new logo is already on the GW Web site and the renovation sign in front of the One Washington Circle Hotel, which uses the horizontal picture alternate form of the new logo.
“We’ve been rolling it out for the past two to three months,” Freedman said.
Livezey said the new logo will not appear on clothing or other items in the GW Bookstore for at least a year, until the bookstore clears out back inventory.
Freedman said many University departments can and have made their own logo with common desktop publishing technology.
“Everybody seemed to be creating their own logo for GW,” he said. “We wanted it to look like one family.”
Assistant Vice President for Special Projects Sandy Holland said the current logo is not the most useful for advertising and other uses because it reduces poorly, is hard to put on letterheads and business cards and the text does not always match well with other fonts.
Freedman said the new logo distinguishes GW from other universities with similar names.
“There is less confusion now with Washington (University) in St. Louis and other institutions, and this will further push it forward,” he said.
Freedman declined to release how much the University spent on developing the new logo.
Livezey said there was “lots of consultation” with GW Graphic Design and vice presidents during the development, which began in fall 1998. Fine Arts and Art History department chair David Bjelajac said he was not consulted, but Freedman said the new logo is not yet finalized and any feedback from students or staff is welcome.
“We want to make sure that this clay remains soft,” Freedman said.
Bjelajac said the “porthole” portrait-style painting, with a stonework oval around the subject to give the effect of a porthole, was popular during the 19th century.
“Peale painted approximately 80 copies or versions of the so-called ‘porthole portrait’ of George Washington,” Bjelajac said.
Livezey said the oil painting was completed around 1850 and purchased by the University in 1955 from Walter P. Chrysler Jr., head of the Chrysler Corporation. It is currently located in GW President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg’s office in Rice Hall.
Livezey said the painting did not come from life but was based on an earlier sketch Peale made of Washington – who died in 1799 – when he was alive.
Bjelajac wrote in an e-mail that the work was a more “idealized representation” than an earlier portrait of Washington that Peale painted from life.
“Frankly, I prefer the naturalism of the earlier portrait, but I doubt that such a ‘warts-and-all’ portrait would have made a very good, corporate-style logo,” he said.
Holland, who headed the design development, said other images of Washington were considered, including the portrait on the dollar bill by Gilbert Stuart, which was voted against because Washington “looked old” in it.
“(The image) had to be dignified and traditional,” Freedman said, adding that this image was “regal, stunning and elegant.”
Livezey said the portrait was also chosen because of its size and shape, which would allow more uses than the current logo.
GW first used a circular image with a shield with a picture of Washington in it as a logo when it was known as the Columbian College in the early 1800s.
Livezey said GW used the seal of a lion and a lamb with a Bible verse since it was known as Columbian College in 1821. In 1971, in honor of its 150th anniversary, the University changed the logo to a shield, Bible, silhouette of George Washington’s head and the stripes and stars from Washington’s coat of arms.
The University adopted its current seal in 1988.
Freedman said administrators and the Board of Trustees have responded positively to the new “classy and classic” look.
-Kate Stepan contributed to this report.