The Open University (OU) has decided that its old logo is a bit tired and has employed the services of Wolff Olins (Tate Modern, BT, Tesco) to re-invigorate the brand to bring it kicking and screaming into the 21st century. I attended a very interesting lecture yesterday to hear about how the OU would be adopting a more youthful, with-it image in order to attract those people who still associate the Open University with ‘flared trousers’ and ‘kipper ties’. Not only was the new logo explained (not too dissimilar to the current logo but with an ‘apple’ aqua feel and vertical text!) but also the attitude of the people working for the institution. Since I joined the place a few years back I have been astonished by the huge amount of dissent within the ranks.
There’s been a large national dispute over pay which has only recently been resolved and there’s also been concern that the OU (along with other higher education facilities) has been becoming more and more business-like – referring to students as customers! To me this seems a fairly logical approach because I don’t really see a divide between an educational institution like the OU and, for instance, a training facility. Yet there are many of the old guard at the OU who believe in the notion of the ‘educational institution’, who spit upon the notion of the OU as a business. No doubt that these are the same people who went on strike over pay. Can you see where I’m coming from here?
The new brand and positive, fresh attitude that it hopes to achieve is bang on if you ask me. I felt energised and ready for action because this is the first large-scale wholly positive proactive step the university has taken since I’ve been an employee. The current Vice Chancellor and her executive are doing sterling work in steering the ship in the right direction. A few more tips from the OU business school and no doubt they’d strip out all those unnecessary middle-managers and hangers-on, remove the tired layers of bureaucracy, get more vocational courses and widen the appeal to be the all-embracing vision that the OU set out to achieve 35 years ago. Once again the OU is set to lead the way for an educational system that’s open to people, places, methods and ideas.