Two of my passions are logo design and UUism. I love reducing an image down to a few strokes or shapes, hopefully one with some clever meaning, and I love the little chunks of typography that go into setting a name in a hopefully unique and identifiable way. I love Unitarian Universalism’s “be excellent to each other” attitude and the passion for making the world a better, more welcoming place, as well as their reminders to raise each other up to higher standards.
However, in my years of growing up UU, I’ve been largely horrified by the results when these two passions overlap. True, the double-ringed flaming chalice can be a more difficult symbol to work with than the simpler symbols of most major religions, but it’s still a distinctive symbol with strong symbolism even when altered significantly. It seems like there could be better design options than the majority of those created. Many of those seem to be hand-drawn in something like MS Paint or scanned in from paper, or drawn with default shapes in PowerPowerpoint. Making it worse is the UU propensity for rainbows. Yes, we are all welcoming congregations, and yes, every non-designer loves a good excuse to throw a rainbow gradient in. But they will rarely, if ever, look good! And yes, flames can be hard to get a nice smooth, evenly balanced shape on – but if you’re going to make a logo for something, it’s worth the time and practice.
There are some more-or-less decent ones out there though:
- The Unitarian Universalist Association:
Could have better proportions (on the chalice in particular) but is recognizable and the starburst pattern works well to communicate the outreach and energy of the organization.
- Unitarian Universalist Service Committee:
Excellent use of negative space and abstracted hands: this is clearly the organization among UUs that needs to be taken seriously and to drum up funding, and knows what steps to take to get that.
- Old UUSC logo: Distinctive and very simple. Solid and well-proportioned – a logo you could build a metaphorical building on. Fits well in buttons too!
- UU World Header: Comes across as serious, international, informative, and UU. Distinctive enough but not very innovative, another solid logo. Not sure why they have a different logo on their website.
- UU College of Social Justice: I’m not sure if their icon matches their mission – it looks more like a seminary logo to me – but it is a well-proportioned and attractive mark that evokes a variety of symbolism and is identifiable.
- Canadian Unitarian Council: Simple, good use of negative space: Canadian + Unitarian. Another logo you could build your church on. Nice repetition of form between candle flame and tips of the maple leaf.
- Illuminations app: More fun, as is appropriate for an iPhone app, with a nice idea of light rays and a joyful character inside the flaming chalice.
From there they get progressively worse. Some are recognizable but lacking in communicative or attractive powers, such as:
- Standing on the Side of Love: distinctive chalk heart, but what does it even mean? The heart is good, but why black and orange? Are we a warning sign or traffic cone? And that poor type, set in something generic that falls between the ubiquitousness of Myriad and the efficiency of Frutiger without lending any further message to the campaign’s logo. Considering that this is the campaign for the “welcoming congregation” aspect of UUism, it seems unsuccessful to me, as I feel like I’m going to be run over by a bus when I look at it.
- YRUU: interesting idea and distinctive/memorable, but looks like something hand drawn in the 60s. I realize this is an appealing association for teenage UUs, but it could be executed more cleanly – and is that really the association we want anyway, after the mess of a reputation LRY had? Maybe this is part of why YRUU has been retired by the UUA, or whatever its status is.
- FUSN: Again, interesting and appealing form, but executed in pencil, with gradients (a no-no) – convert this to a nice vector mark and you’re done. Bam, put it on a t-shirt. Interesting treatment of the ring almost like a halo around the chalice evokes a more Christian attitude for me. Close!
- CLFUU: If the Church of the Larger Fellowship was actually just a local church, this would be a fine mark (with some tune-up on proportions and that odd periwinkle color circle) – but since it aims to serve all UU members not engaged in a physical congregation, it seriously needs a logo of the weight and quality of the UUA, or better, the UUSC.
- Then there are all the other results that turn up with a Google Image Search for “unitarian logo.” I won’t bother to review them.
And then there’s the gallery on the UUA’s own website, which is similarly depressing. Some of the logos were drawn nicely – but this is an international organization. They should have real logos for people to use, not what should really be counted as UU “fan art.” I’ve seen a number of the images on there used in various Unitarian publications, and having them listed on the UUA site is far too much of an endorsement of this for my taste. I applaud their desire to get UUs participating, but they should be providing higher-quality assets for congregations to use if they’re going to give out chalice art through their official website.
Also, have these groups even heard of a brand guidelines manual (ex: Red Cross’s short version)? :< The UUA has the beginnings of one which covers the logo and typeface, but that is a long way from a comprehensive manual. I don’t know how much branding is standard for churches, but it seems like a bit more of an effort could be made for the cohesiveness of national-level materials – and from there you could build some decent professional-looking websites for these groups.
What UU logos stand out to you? What do you think of their execution?