Founded in 1976 to serve working adults seeking higher education who couldn’t attend a traditional university environment, the University of Phoenix (UOPX) is currently the largest for-profit university with more than 420,000 undergraduate and 78,000 graduate students. Most students take their courses and complete their curriculum online but can also attend classes at one of the 200 nondescript “campuses” (in quotes, because they are mostly beige buildings that don’t trigger notions of idyllic campuses) around the U.S. — in fact, they state that there is a campus “within 10 miles of 87 million Americans.” UOPX has long been under scrutiny because of the perceived lower level of education and standards that other universities strive for, and it also receives Federal funding for loans despite being a very profitable enterprise. And some frown upon their athletics program which consists not of teams playing in divisions but of buying the naming rights to the University of Phoenix Stadium where the NFL Cardinals play; they were also a big sponsor in the recent LeBron James spectacle where he announced his move to South Beach. But all this is just baggage lugging around a recent redesign of identity the university has gone through internally.
It may look similar to our old one, but subtle changes make it quite different. The logo has been refreshed so that now the Phoenix itself is turned upward and outward. It’s future facing—just like the University of Phoenix.
The New Phoenix features a future-facing head, a wing now folds forward and a more torch-like flame comprises the tail feathers.
— Brand Guidelines
As an evolution, the new Phoenix is a great improvement in all aspects. The head turning outward and front makes more sense — I have yet to find a corporation or organization that prefers anything in their logo looking or moving backward — and is more dynamic. The thicks and thins are better proportioned. The wings are less stubby and more embracing. And the tail is the biggest improvement, because it doesn’t look like the Phoenix is pooping, it actually looks like flamed feathers. The change from that 1970s, tightly spaced serif to a better spaced FF Milo is a very welcome change too.
The identity application is fairly straightforward, nothing to get too excited about but very clean and simple. UOPX has also introduced what they call Light Paths, that “abstractly represent pace of life, the Internet, and the exchange of ideas.” While the images below (and above) are prototypes and not final executions I am hesitant to pass final judgment but there is something a little corny about it; nonetheless, as a way to liven up a broad range of communication materials it’s not the worst idea.