I may as well confess I didn't go to a UC school. For 14 summers, however, I went with my family to Cal's Lair of the Bear family camp at Pinecrest. We have a world-class collection of Lair logoware -- T-shirts, hats, mugs, and sweatshirts, usually adorned by bears.

So I feel qualified to pass judgment on the new seal for the university. You may have heard about this. As part of a new marketing campaign, the university is replacing the 1868 Victorian seal on many of its materials with a sleek "C'' resting inside a shield-shaped "U.''

The old seal won't go away. It will still appear on the president's letters and official documents. But on websites and marketing pitches, you'll see the new one.

So what's my verdict on the new seal? I like it. I like it a lot. After 144 years, it's about time for a change.

My view reflects more than the fact that new image is modern, though that's certainly true. Most immediately, it offers bright color. Where the old seal faded into the background, a dreary postmark on an old letter, this one demands your attention.

(I'm enough of a traditionalist that I prefer blue and gold, but if they want to put it out in shades of pastel, let a thousand flowers bloom.)

Making you think

More important, the new seal makes you think. In the effort to piece together the "U'' and the "C,'' you bump your head against the marketing campaign's effort to illustrate how the university matters to daily life in California.


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We have an old saying in journalism: Show rather than tell. The old seal used a bunch of words in reciting the motto, "Let there be light.'' Even then, you didn't know exactly what they meant. The new seal shows the light bleeding through the "C.''

I understand why UC seniors or recent graduates looking for a job might dislike it. The old seal embodied the gravitas they crave, the stamp of approval that will help them get hired. It's no surprise they would reject the swagger of the new seal.

For the rest of us, however, the new seal conveys the suppleness and energy of youth. It suggests that the university is more than a stuffy fortress of academia begun three years after the Civil War ended. Besides, the new seal comes across digitally better than the old one.

Marketing slogan

"Whether you know it or not, the University of California, or a UC grad, has probably played a part in your day,'' says the marketing slogan. Prosaic but true enough.

If they were striving for jackhammer honesty, they might have said, "Whether you know it or not, we pay well: The incoming UC Berkeley chancellor is getting 486K, plus free campus housing and $122K in relocation fees. Jerry Brown can go stick his head in the sand.''

But then, this is a campaign designed to raise money and awareness for the university, not to shine too much light on the inner workings of the fortress. Better to keep it simple. That swooping "C'' inside the "U'' does it elegantly.

Contact Scott Herhold at 408-275-0917 or sherhold@mercurynews.com. Twitter.com/scottherhold.