It is not my intention to write something here that just rails against UConn for the new logo and rebranding efforts. There is enough one-sided criticism out there. While I certainly do have my criticisms, it also must be acknowledged what they did well, and yes, they did do some things well.
To start off, I absolutely love the initial UConn wordmark. I know it is based off a font that was created close to ten years ago, but I really like how clean it is. Previously, I had mixed feelings about the use of that lettering. I liked how it was unique to UConn, but I felt like the school had a tendency to clutter them up with unnecessary outlines thus making it feel too bulky. If they can keep that wordmark clean, then I would love to see them throw it on a jersey similar to the throwbacks the men wore in 2006.
Additionally, I like that we are standardizing how UConn athletics will represent the school. No more will we see the Baseball team , Football team and Men's and Women's basketball teams each with their own branding. I always found that odd, especially the variation in the Men's and Women's Basketball. These were two of the top programs in the country for each gender, playing the same sport, what better opportunity to promote the school brand than to unify their looks. This will finally rectify that.
As for the Jonathan logo, I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I think it is well designed. It is fairly simple and clean as a standalone logo. I like that it is not overly aggressive. In fact, it was pointed out to me that if you cover up mouth on the old Jonathan and new Jonathan, the eyes on the old Jonathan actually may be more aggressive. I think the tongue disperses any aggression the eyes may portray but it was an interesting observation nonetheless. However, when paired with the UConn wordmark, the red outline needs to go. It is unnecessary, starts making the wordmark feel bulky again and only detracts from the logo.
Yet that said, I don't like the logo... for UConn. Don't get me wrong, I like the logo itself, just I do not think it is good for this school. It does bother me that he is not all white now, considering all the live Jonathans always are, but I will not devote much space to that, that really is a secondary issue to me. Of more concern to me is that it feels too generic. My first reaction was that it is the love puppy of the Washington Huskies and New Mexico Lobos. After giving it a day and returning to it, I thought it reminded me of a cleaned up version of the Minnesota Timberwolves logo (and their old logo too).
That to me is the biggest problem, it just is too similar to many other logos. To me if you are rebranding here, you are trying to further position this school as a national brand. Using the UConn typeface was a good first step because there really is not much out there like it. However, the logo kind of feels like one of the generic ones you find in older Madden games (2004-2006 era) when you want to move your team to a new city.
Really though, why does Jonathan even have to be the basis for the logo? Look at some of the major national brands in college sports. Some do use their mascot as the basis for their logo, but a lot of them do not. Look at the most dominant teams of the past 15 years in basketball (UNC, Kansas, Duke, Kentucky) and football (USC, Alabama, LSU, Oklahoma, Miami, Oregon, Texas). Look at some of the other classic programs that are national brands (Notre Dame, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio State, Nebraska). How many of them use their mascot as their primary logo? How many of their logos are instantly recognizable?
Now maybe I am off base here and those logos have brand recognition because of the long term success these schools have achieved. Maybe all that needs to happen is that UConn continues to win, play deep into March each year and improve their football team. Or maybe, the all white Jonathan already has that. Maybe since UConn has been a Men's and Women's basketball powerhouse for the past 20+ years with one form of Jonathan or another as the basis for their logo, it already is gaining that notoriety. If that is the case, why run away from it? Embrace it, tweak it like they did the last time, and continue the brand, rather than trying to create a new one.
But if they really want to rebrand, there are better options out there. UConn already has an interlocking UC logo they can make more prominent. It is already on the Men's shorts, and you find it on some of their other gear as well. Personally, I have always felt that logo was underutilized. If they really want to rebrand, make that the focus. You can keep a form of Jonathan around, but make it a secondary logo, much like Notre Dame does with their Irishman or Kentucky with their Wildcat. This better compliments the wordmark, feels less like a mid-major logo than the new Jonathan and more like one of the powerhouse logos as demonstrated above.
UConn needs to be thinking big picture now, how to promote themselves as a national brand. On the one hand the school does a good job of that by consolidating sports brands and standardizing their athletics to be known as UConn (as opposed to Connecticut). Unfortunately, I just think the new logo is off the mark in that regard.