Putting the H into Harvard

A new identity for the Harvard University Press by Chermayeff & Geismar ditches the imprint’s old seal device in favour of a mark in which six rectangles create a capital H

A new identity for the Harvard University Press by Chermayeff & Geismar ditches the imprint’s old seal device in favour of a mark in which six rectangles create a capital H

The rebrand is the work of Chermayeff & Geismar partner Sagi Haviv. According to the New York-based consultancy, the seal which has been used by the Harvard University Press throughout its 100-year existence was deemed “too complicated to work effectively in the digital realm”. Therefore, the HUP asked C&G to “create an identity designed for the digital age” for them.

The new mark retains the crimson colour of the seal but features a capital H formed from the negative space created by six rectangles that can be seen either as books on a shelf, windows or a tablet computer, C&G say. The HUP name is rendered in Palatino. “While it is not an uncommon typeface, we found it to be perfectly suited for Harvard University Press, as it is traditional in appearance, thus providing an appropriate counterpoint to the modern symbol,” Haviv says. “It is bold and distinctive, with a hand-lettered quality.”



An abbreviated version of the mark, as is customary in publishing, will be used on book spines. “The new identity puts emphasis on the Harvard name which was previously obscured by the seal,” Haviv points out, “underscoring the Press’s historic relationship with the University.”



C&G say that the new mark will also be more effective when used in digital media such as app icons, browser icons and ebooks.




Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with the University of California furore where, it was assumed (wrongly, it turned out) that a university seal was going to be replaced by a modern mark. There are some important differences in this case however, the most obvious being that this is a mark for the Harvard University Press and not the University as a whole.

As such, it works very well. There are obvious problems with the old seal mark when it comes to such things as app icons and favicons (see above). The abstracted H will be much better in those, increasingly important, environments. And its ingenious construction harks back to some of C&G’s illustrious back catalogue. While the use of Palatino, while, as Haviv admits, hardly a rare typeface, adds that sense of history and link with the past.



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  • Alex

    I love the character of the seal, it has spirit, zeal and heritage.

    I feel more inclined to change the type as an update and rethink the terms of usage.

    Brands like ACNE and A.SAUVAGE both use seals that looks very similar to this with Contemporary type treatments to offset it.

    The iPad example shows a pretty blatant opportunity to KEEP the seal in the digital realm, with those beatiful screens and a bit of a redraw it would look better than ever! Better than 6 ‘book’ shapes forming an H anyhow

  • > Comparisons will inevitably be drawn with the University of California furore where, it was assumed (wrongly, it turned out) that a university seal was going to be replaced by a modern mark.

    Whoever assumes this or can not tell the difference between a school and an imprint should not even have the capacity to either attend Harvard or be reading books from Harvard University Press.

  • David

    I quite like the tactility seal, and agree with Alex. A bit of a clen up and it would transfer really well.

    Though, saying all that, seeing the new mark and logo in place I think it works really well

  • Tim

    Pales in comparison to the Paul Rand ‘Yale’ logo, but then so does the original.
    Yale should have never changed there’s now Harvards is better marginally.

  • peteherb

    I am inclined to agree with Armin Vit’s comment here.

    No doubt comparisons will be made. And after the who-ha with the Cali logo, the cynic in me says ‘Good luck!’ making this change.

    However, I like it.
    I don’t think the old seal is particularly strong and in comparison, the rectangle mark is strong, clean and confident while the type retains a sense of quality, heritage and the intellectual. Nice work.

  • I agree that the seal could have been simplified to work better digitally. Perhaps it was tried and decided against.

    However, I feel that the new logo works well in how it is applied with consideration going into changing the mark position and the name depending in the space allowed.

  • Uh oh.

  • Gary Rogers

    Personally, this logo for me lacks any individuality and fails in communication
    All I read from this is ‘Prison’. Harvard Prison Press.

    Does anyone else think this looks like a barred window or have I been watching too much Shawshank Redemption?

    On a positive the bold, brave simplicity is to be commended, and the move away from a seal for such an established organisation is a move in the right direction.

  • Jim

    I’m normally first to hate an abolishment of a traditional seal but tbh it wasn’t great, think it has great standout on the books

  • Alvin Martinez

    Wait! This has to go through the prerequisite “crowdsmashing” that seems to be prevalent nowadays for major brand redesigns.

  • Sorry, can’t help but think of Holiday Inn when looking at this new logo. And Palatino, really? No other typeface could evoke that sense of history and link to the past?

  • Jane Brown

    I remain horrified by the “crowdsmashing” and mob mentality of the UC identity ordeal so I hope this mark will not be subjected to the same vitriolic (erroneous) criticism.
    Spines of books, pixels forming an H, centered above serif type. It is lovely, refreshingly modern, simple, and reflects the analog and digital world of publishing. I’m not sure what there is to dislike about it. I subscribe to the belief that if something isn’t broken then don’t fix it, but for there to have been a request for change then something wasn’t working for Harvard University Press.
    The visual solution is the most tangible for critics and the subject of smashing. Perhaps the less visible strategists and clients should be heard from as well, to defend the RFP and rational and strategy for change.

  • Greg K

    Now it looks like some kind of swanky startup from NYC. Sad…

  • A. Plebian

    My granddaughter could have done that

  • A smarty, elegant solution. The old one was a load of rubbish – it was NEVER good enough.

  • I’m both glad and worried that other people have thought ‘hotel or at least some form of boarding (as in Gary’s prison comment).

    So sad. I’m hoping this is respectfully retired very quickly.

  • Lewis

    “Personally, this logo for me lacks any individuality and fails in communication
    All I read from this is ‘Prison’. Harvard Prison Press. ”

    I Can´t agree more

  • Sorry not to jump on the negative bandwagon but personally I like it.

  • jay

    what a shame!

  • Andy

    The nostalgia people are expressing for the “spirit, zeal and heritage” of the old seal is strange & ridiculous to me. The old seal was such a slave to the past, while the new mark is intelligently timeless (as well as looks so good on the book spines). The “H” & the books are the first 2 things I saw in the mark, not a prison; seeing jail bars in this logo says more about you than it says about the logo. (i.e. I designed a secondary graphic container for an out-of-date logo, & one of the oldest people in the focus group said it looked like a headstone in a cemetery). The new mark is clever & striking.

  • I rather like it. Simple. Smart. Flexible.

    It’s really too bad Mr Zapf’s most famous typeface is considered bland by some. It’s kind of an ironic type choice, given that Palatino, too, has gone through its share of problems being translated from its letterpress beginnings to the digital age.

  • love it

  • Great idea, not so great execution.

  • James

    Hoilday Inn hahahaha that’s really made my day! Really? Honestly?

    I can just see now the hordes of travellers getting back into their cars sheepishly after turning up at the Harvard Press reception with their overnight bags or a bus full of convicts being dropped off on the doorstep by mistake. Jeez people might even turn up for a zinger tower meal and some popcorn chicken, after all they do use a deep red – pretty confusing huh?

  • Josh

    Let’s play spot Harvard’s seal:

    oh, you can’t?

    All universities have seals, they’re not differentiating. This new mark is simple and practical.
    No one’s taking away the seal, it’s just not relevant in publishing anymore.
    I like the new mark!

  • What a shame to lose the seal for something fairly bland. The new mark does work well as a favicon and also on the spine of books, but taken out of those contexts it gets lost.

  • Anon

    “My granddaughter could have done that
    A. Plebian”

    She probably could have, but she didn’t and no doubt wouldn’t have.

    That is the point.

    Simplicity is in the answer… although many fail to see it.