The Eye of the Fish

August 5, 2018

Victoria, move your comma

I really could not care less about the name change proposal from Victoria University, Wellington. Corporate rebranding are foolish things, undertaken by PR firms who may not really have a full understanding of the issues. Telecom changing it’s name to Spark seemed puerile and pathetic at the time, with it only just starting to be accepted several years later. But the proposal from Vic seems odd and out of place, a rebrand without a cause. Luckily, the Eye of the Fish offers a simple solution, involving just a simple movement of a comma.
Commas are great things, just a tiny squiggle added almost as an afterthought, denoting a pause in a sentence, but offering far, far more. We all have heard the story involving a Kiwi that eats, roots and leaves. Or the story of a University professor (seems appropriate), who wrote the following sentence on the board and asked his class to punctuate it:

Woman without her man is nothing.

Allegedly, half of the class punctuated the sentence in the following way:

Woman: without her, man is nothing.

Supposedly, the other half of the class responded with the following:

Woman, without her man, is nothing.

You can make up your own mind whether the male members of the class wrote the first version or the second, but either way, it’s clear that correct placement of a comma is very important, and can tell many different stories.

So, what’s the story, morning glory? The proposal, driven by the head honcho at the brick (not ivory) tower up on the hill, is that Victoria’s name is not getting enough recognition from people overseas. It’s odd that New Zealanders should care too deeply about that for a start, as Victoria seems to mainly gain students from within New Zealand, and particularly from the Wellington region, most of whom presumably know where Victoria is and what it does. Most people know it simply as Vic. Some call it VUW.

The proposal is to change the name from Victoria University, Wellington. The revised name would be just Wellington University. Many people, particularly older alumni, are aghast at loosing the name Victoria, not so much out of allegiance to a vanished British monarch, as out of – well, go read Hugh Rennie’s plea in the DomPost, which puts it well. Even the PVC himself says that he doesn’t want to break all links with Victoria as a name. But isn’t there a simpler way? Why not simply move the comma, so that the new name becomes:

Victoria, University Wellington.

It is simplicity personified, and I’ll happily take my designer’s rebranding fee for $150,000 now if you like. It achieves everything. Officially the University becomes University Wellington. You can even stick a little ‘of’ in there if that gets you going. It keeps the same initials if you want, so you can still refer to it as VUW, while the all important list of publications can still be credited to University Wellington. It retains the name of Victoria which is then just a name but will still keep alumni happy. Those rare foreign students googling from overseas can simply search for “University Wellington” and get a 100% accurate hit rate. Crucially, it allows for differentiation from Massey University, which is also a University in Wellington, or so I’ve heard. They don’t teach architecture though, so I’m really not too interested in them, and in reality I suspect they’re nothing much more than a glorified polytechnic, so perhaps they’ll be gone soon anyway.
But the really crazy part about this proposed rebranding, is that the visual part is proposed to be left unchanged. The current logo includes a stylised Lion and a stylised Taniwha or Manaia, looking away from a fairly bland shield, depicted in the world’s most ugly shade of green. The Lion, the Taniwha and the shield all need a reboot – and the ugly green just needs the boot. I don’t think that the University needs to go all John Key on this proposal and throw out the logo with the bathwater, but if you’re doing a rebrand, then first things first: change the Font, change the Colour, and give those damn animals a decent upgrade. Feed the Lion. Free the Kraken. And that shield – three crowns? Four stars? What’s that all about? The Southern Cross is about as unique to Wellington as it is to Auckland, Sydney or Capetown – it’s visible from the entire Southern Hemisphere, so not much uniqueness there. And the triple crown? Does that represent the Maori King, the Pakeha Queen, and the King Edward potato? Or England, Scotland and Ireland? Or the territories of New Ulster, New Leinster, and New Munster? The three cash crops of New Zealand like Milk powder, Forestry and Frozen Lamb? Who knows – and frankly, who cares about a heraldic shield nowadays. Time for an upgrade!

Post-script: Actually just checked on Wikipedia and it says that the name of the university is ALREADY Victoria University, of Wellington. Just move that comma over….
Victoria, University of Wellington.

5 - 08 - 18

Sorry – can’t take the name Victoria seriously. Not just the association with a fat old queen, colonialism, and a local hill that sounds like a well-dodgy porno command “Mount Victoria” but mainly because of the old Dance Exponents song: Victoria.

Every time I hear that name I just want to start singing “What do you see in him, see in him?”
Damn, can’t get it out of my head now.

5 - 08 - 18

What about Pacific’s Triple Star?

5 - 08 - 18

But it doesn’t say “Save Pacific’s Triple Crown”, right? Triple star? Does that mean the 3 main islands? The Fish, the Canoe, and the Anchorstone?

Actually – just done what I should have done a few hours ago – looked at Wikipedia. This says:
“The blazon for the arms is: Vert on a fesse engrailed between three Crowns Or, a Canton Azure charged with four Estoilles Argent.

“What this means: The colour of the shield is first described. Vert is green so the shield is green. A fess is a horizontal stripe across the shield and engrailed means the edges of the fess are wavy. The fess is between three crowns and or means gold so the crowns are golden. Conventionally with three objects two are placed above and one below, in this case, the fess. A canton is a square and azure is blue so a blue square is placed on the fess. An estoille is a star and argent is silver so there are four silver stars on the canton. These are supposed to represent the Southern Cross.

“Crest: The crest sits above the shield and consists of a crown on which sits a lion rampant (facing left) holding a staff from which flies a banner with the cross of Saint George.

“Supporters: These are a lion and a Māori figure.

“Motto: “Sapientia magis auro desideranda” which may be translated as “Wisdom is more to be desired than gold”.

“The modern depiction: The Coat of Arms has been redesigned as a corporate logo and is depicted in monotone only and usually in green. The crest and scroll with the motto have disappeared and what was left has been stylised rather than being depicted in the traditional heraldic manner.”

Still doesn’t tell us what the 3 crowns are for. Unless, perhaps, 3 crowns was the original price for the land up in Kelburn?

5 - 08 - 18

Regarding those crowns, there were originally four before the Duke of Wellington’s crest was removed from the top of the Victoria College emblem:
or even here:

Perhaps, if we do consider that fourth crown) there is a relationship with the number of foundational professorial chairs, these being Profs Brown (Classics), Mackenzie (English language and literature), Maclaurin (Mathematics and mathematical physics), and Easterfield (Chemistry)? Seems a long shot, but I can’t think of anything else.

Now, about that motto, would anyone care to unpack how this whole rebranding exercise relates to those noble words?

5 - 08 - 18

Hugh Rennie’s persuasive plea can be found on wellington.scoop –
and he then gave us a second equally convincing instalment as well

60 MPa
5 - 08 - 18

I was told that the University was built up there because the guy who built the cable car originally sold the people on that area – apologies for vagueness

The Lion looks a bit like Fletcher’s logo and that may not augur well

That green is well nasty

28 - 09 - 18

An update, on the visual identity at least:

I abhor the date, but I guess when you get rid of all other institutional heritage (except for the ‘well nasty’ green), that you need to show how old the university is by the most pragmatic means possible?