HPU Today
The Mark of a Bold, New Era
Hawaii Pacific University Logo

When Hawai'i Pacific University undertook an effort last summer to design a new logo to complement the long-standing HPU seal, leaders did so recognizing a growing number of major university developments in the environment: Completion of the first major university strategic plan,planned redevelopment of the Aloha Tower site and the fast-approaching 50th anniversary of HPU (coming in 2015).

To underscore the dawn of a new era through a new mark intended to serve as HPU's primary visual symbol for external audiences, University Marketing and Communications (UMC) secured the services of the Jon Duarte Design Group (JDDG) of Honolulu and its principal, Jon Duarte. Born and raised in Hawai'i, Duarte and his highly successful firm have represented such clients as Hawaii Pacific Health, the APEC 2011 conference in Honolulu, Kamehameha Schools, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea, Alexander & Baldwin Properties, Hawaii Theatre, Ko Olina Resort & Marina and many others.

"We were looking for design guidance that would connect the university more explicitly to the culture, history and unparalleled natural environment of Hawai'i. Our hope was that in doing so, we'd make more prominent use of some of the concepts that students and alumni say were influential in their decision to come to HPU in the first place," said HPU Marketing and Communications Vice President Todd Simmons. "The Jon Duarte Design Group portfolio is replete with examples of how they've helped Hawai'i brands develop visual identities through thoughtful, elegant use of Hawai'i ideas, and that made the firm a logical choice for this work."

JDDG created an initial set of 13 different design approaches, which were shared with a campus work group of students, faculty and staff last September. Though the designs were quite different from one another, the work group zeroed in on a single design as its preferred approach — a dynamic repeated in subsequent weeks as UMC shared the marks in small groups and individual meetings.

"It was remarkable, the unanimity with which dozens and dozens of constituents made their choice," said Simmons, who has been part of similar logo efforts at universities in Oregon and Florida.

Duarte incorporated feedback from the work group and other reviews over the course of the fall term and early 2013, resulting in the logo on this page. At the heart of the design is the makau or the Hawaiian fish hook. The ancient symbol has special significance throughout Polynesia, befitting a university whose middle name is Pacific, but particularly so in Hawai'i, where the fish hook connotes the "deep connection and reverence the Hawaiians had for the ocean," according to the cultural education website, HawaiianLife.com.

"The ocean surrounded them, was their source of food and their means of travel. Their jewelry and ornamentation was made of shells fished from the sea. They had navigated thousands of miles on uncharted high oceans, depending on their navigation by the stars and by listening to the language of the waves," the site explains. [The fish hook] stands for everything that is good and promises its wearer prosperity, strength and good luck."

Simmons notes that individuals ranging from university trustees to elected officials to students have interpreted symbolism in the design that surpasses the hook. "Many see ocean waves," he said. "Our university kupuna, Dr. Lynette Hi'ilani Cruz (BA Pacific Island Studies '87), even envisioned a cradling hand."

A preview of the logo was shown at a Honolulu alumni pau hana in February, and a survey of those at the event revealed strongly positive reactions on questions as to whether the logo would create "a positive association" with HPU and "distinction" in the higher education marketplace, as well as whether it's a logo that they'd like to buy on HPU gear.

Online surveys at KHON and the HPU campus newspaper, The Kalamalama, yielded positive responses, as well. UMC began implementing the mark in March, and HPU Today readers will see it soon in places ranging from the university website to Facebook to retail products on sale through the HPU Bookstore.

"Changing or introducing new logos is often a challenging process at any university, given that students, alumni and fans sometimes have strong emotional connections to those marks," said Simmons. "We're no different in that regard. I'm grateful for the acceptance that this one has met thus far, and while it hasn't been uniform, the response has been reassuring overall."