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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