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Published: Monday, 12/25/2000

Ohio Northern tries to find its identity

ADA, Ohio - Ohio Northern University has an identity crisis it hopes will end soon.

The small, liberal arts college 65 miles south of Toledo lacks a fancy logo or a catchy phrase it can use to define itself and its mission.

That should change after the first of the year when Ohio Northern adopts a logo from among three designs that play off the name Ohio Northern University or the initials ONU.

In an era of multimillion-dollar searches for new corporate identities, Ohio Northern University has turned to the constituency that knows it best - the university community and its alumni - to design and select the logo.

John Willey, vice president of development and university relations, said the move not only saved a bundle of money, but it involved groups that closely identified with the university.

Ballots with the three choices were mailed to the university alumni this month.

ONU's 3,240 students were allowed to vote electronically and opinions were solicited from the community, he said.

“Our hope is to find out if we're on the right track,” Mr. Willey said. “What we're going to do, basically, is ask for a vote from over 20,000 alumni.”

The need for a logo was recognized nearly a year ago when a review of the university's 405 publications was conducted.

“It was out of that audit that we decided to take a look at the need for a logo,” said Mr. Willey, who joined the university two years ago.

Mr. Willey said a logo is necessary to develop awareness of an organization, particularly in the highly competitive higher education field. The logo will help ensure that university communications are clear and convey its strengths, he said.

The lack of a definite logo has resulted in at least three emblems in use.

Some ONU departments use a silhouette of the clock tower above the Hill Building, a two-story red brick structure built in 1915 that contains classrooms and offices.

Others use the university seal, which is found on some vehicles and official documents.

The athletic department frequently employs the polar bear in its communications.

“The seal is fine, but it's a complex and formal device,” he said. “Typically, the university seal is not something you could stick on the side of a university truck.”

Designers of the proposed logo were instructed to draw a logo that will accommodate the Polar Bear, ONU's beloved mascot. The new logo was also designed to be clear on Internet web pages, Mr. Willey said.

“It's a real challenge to make the letters work off each other,” he said.

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