The following is the text of a letter by President Nominee KR Ravindran to Sunil Zachariah chair of the board of the Rotary Fellowship Group, Rotarians on the Internet (ROTI) responding to the firestorm of criticism from members at the ROTI discussion group and the various Rotary groups at LinkedIN. 5550Opinions editor
By KR Ravindran, Rotary President 2015-16 Nominee
I have seen the many communications and comments you receive in your widely circulated ROTI egroup, (and at LinkedIN Rotary Groups-editor) on the new looks of our logo, noting that many of them express their disapproval at the new style and colour.
You and your readers may as well hear my own point of view, because I too was one of those who found the change disagreeable! In fact my immediate reaction was that “this is crazy, what have they done with our beautiful and much loved wheel?”
But then I began to think; I thought of Albert Einstein’s famous statement when he defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
In many ways this has been the story of some segments of Rotary’s progress – membership growth being a case in point. We tried the same thing again and again and expected different results.
I realised that people like me getting to sixty years were the older brigade of Rotary and that if we wanted to get results and bring the younger lot in, then maybe we need to change our image to a more youthful, progressive, dynamic one.
Change for the sake of change of course is no good, so I studied the methodology used by RI to arrive at these changes. Was it just a group of people who got together and thrust this changes on to us? Was it the Board of Directors who were responsible? Or was it the Board of TRF Trustees who should be blamed?
Our Board had in fact employed a professional and objective approach to this task.
To begin with, one of the top agencies in the world Siegel + Gale were contracted to undertake a study and to revitalize Rotary. Their purpose was to:
- Clarify what Rotary stands for, why it’s different and why people should care
- Elevate awareness and understanding of Rotary’s impact in its communities and the world
- Motivate current members, donors, strategic partners and staff to be actively engaged with Rotary
- Inspire prospective members, donors and strategic partners to select Rotary as their organization of choice
They reviewed tons of strategic materials and research reviews, over 400 internal and external communication material of RI and TRF, RI Public Image Survey, RI Membership research and focus groups, VSA findings.
They also looked at external communications materials, websites and the social media of Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Clinton Foundation and CARE.
They further did a secondary research and reviewed press, articles and papers relating to social sector trends
In addition Siegel+Gale conducted an online survey among Donors (both of Rotary and peers) in 14 countries by using two sources for sample; a respected online panel and Rotary’s lists; thousands of Rotarians and hundreds of Rotoractors were surveyed.
The data was collected between November–December 2011 with Evanston assisting in the drafting and administering of the survey.
As part of the findings of the survey a conclusion was reached that we needed to refresh our visual identity and to energize Rotary’s look and feel, while celebrating our heritage.
Clearly to attempt to reinvent the wheel (logo) was not a solution. But perhaps we needed to build upon this highly recognizable and globally respected identity that has unified and inspired Rotarians for over a century?
Having made that decision, elevating the Rotary name was the first critical step in re-energizing the logo. Not only did scaling up the word ‘Rotary’ in proportion to the wheel symbol put the more proprietary identity component up front and centre, it also unified the two parts of the organization—Rotary International and The Rotary Foundation—under one powerful banner.
They applied the wheel boldly as a mark of excellence—a pledge of commitment, a symbol of leadership, a sign of social and ethical responsibility. There was also the consideration of optimising it for digital use, a big draw back with our former logo, where the words ‘Rotary International’ could be very difficult to read inside the wheel, depending on factors such as size and distance. In fact the survey found that many non-Rotarians who may have seen the wheel never knew what it represented.
With a stronger primary logo in place, the team set out to build a bolder, easier-to-manage visual system that would continue to inspire creativity while enabling strategic decision-making and maintain visual consistency across communications, media types and geographies.
It does this by emphasizing the word Rotary.
In our new design with ‘Rotary’ featured so prominently, there is absolutely no doubt as to what the wheel stands for. And the wheel itself continues to remain a dominant element.
Likewise, the colour of the heritage gold — our standard through 2007 — was revived because it is so visually effective against a wide range of backgrounds – again a big issue with our former logo.
The end result is a design that is much more contemporary – a necessity if we are to successfully compete for attention in today’s world — while still representing Rotary’s proud heritage.
Of course, when all is said and done, our logo – while very important — does not tell the Rotary story by itself. Rather, it complements the way we now describe who we are and what we stand for – bringing leaders together to address the world’s most serious challenges. The most important result from the ‘Strengthen Rotary’ initiative will come from Rotarians around the world being able to consistently describe our organization as leaders exchanging ideas and taking action. Our logo reinforces visually that we remain, as always, Rotary proud and strong.
I have now begun to understand why we modified our appearance, why we needed to be more modern, current and progressive.
I realise that it’s time now to change my own letter head and visiting cards, without stubbornly resisting the change that the Rotary world seems to want, and the change that is needed.
But me being me, no doubt will be the first one to object again in twenty years (if I am still around) if they again decide we need another re vitalization of our brand from this one!
PS – For the time being as I understand, there is no change envisaged in our lapel pins!