Latest USC Graphic Identity Weakens SCA’s Own Identity

by Danny Kim

New School of Cinematic Arts logo at top left, as seen on the SCA homepage.

I’ve always thought that the School of Cinematic Arts had a life of its own, separate from the image of USC at large. As far as I understand, the USC School of Cinematic Arts has always been known as one of the premier institutions – if not the premier institution – to study the art of cinema, and I imagine this was even the case throughout all the time in USC’s history when it was better known as one of the nation’s top party schools, the so-called “University of Spoiled Children.”

In that vein, I always liked how SCA maintained its own logo – it was meaningful, poetic in a way. This visual independence was symbolic of how SCA had made a name for itself and was already the (largely) indisputable number one in the film school scene, a level that the university as a whole was still gradually working toward in the national university rankings.

However, with the new university-level graphic identity, the colorful poeticism of the SCA logo has given way to structured uniformity. In November 2011, USC introduced a new graphic identity, which introduced the following major changes in the “visual signature” of the school (as stated by the official graphic identity website):

  • Introduced the shield as the primary identity mark of the university, with the seal (from which the shield is taken) used in more formal applications.
  • Refined and clarified the use of typography, selecting Adobe Caslon Pro and National as official typefaces.
  • Introduced matching logotypes for USC academic schools and other subunits, which make their connection to the university visible and reinforce USC’s overall image.

The shield, whatever, fine, even if I think it’s trying too hard (seriously, the university’s own official news article about the graphic identity change way-too-proudly talks about how the shield is “in keeping with the identities of many top-caliber universities.”). New fonts, fine, even if I personally think they don’t look particularly awesome and, again, try too hard.

But the last bullet completely reins in SCA’s previous visual identity: matching logotypes? WHAT?

The new matching logotype requirement has SCA taking on a new logo that looks no different from that of any of the other USC professional schools and by doing so strips the film school of some of its self-identity and visual impression. And worse, the specific wording of the logo, which just says, “USC Cinematic Arts,” makes the school sound like just some minor department of the school. But SCA isn’t just some random department, it’s arguably the most legendary of all the professional schools at USC.

I know our official name is still the School of Cinematic Arts and that nothing has changed functionally or structurally, but this new logo just doesn’t work. From the abbreviated wording to the bad font, all the new logo does is sap the stylistic uniqueness of SCA.  The School of Cinematic Arts and the abbreviation SCA is a living, breathing brand on its own. As a student in the School of Cinematic Arts myself, I don’t think it’d be too dramatic to say: we aren’t just “USC Cinematic Arts” –

We are SCA. We are the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Retired School of Cinematic Arts Logo

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