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Braddock feels the purple pain of UPMC's logo

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Sunday, Nov. 7, 2010

They're loving themselves some new logo at UPMC.

The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center obviously believed its image was as stale as a month-old loaf of Wonder Bread.

Western Pennsylvania's largest medical provider recently hired an advertising agency to overhaul its logo as part of a marketing campaign that could cost as much as $16 million.

(That amount could have covered nearly four years of average annual losses at UPMC Braddock, which closed in January because it was losing too much money. But hey, sometimes vital community centerpieces take a backseat to invigorating branding initiatives.)

The logo comes with the standard letters UPMC.

It's primarily purple, so Prince would approve.

It is accompanied by a mystifying mobius shape consisting of a single thread continuously flowing into three intersecting arcs. It obviously is a symbol, but of what?

For an answer, I performed a minimally invasive exploratory procedure on a UPMC website. This brief online operation resulted in the excision of the following benign explanation:

The mobius "conveys the interconnectivity of UPMC's mission of providing outstanding patient care and shaping tomorrow's health system through clinical innovation, biomedical and health services research, and education."

Call me unimaginative, but I looked at the thing again after reading the explanation and all I saw was a single thread flowing into three intersecting arcs.

The logo is accompanied by a UPMC slogan that replaces ... it replaces ... a previous slogan that obviously needs jettisoned if I can't even recall it.

That doesn't mean I think much of the new slogan, "Life Changing Medicine."

The fact of the matter is that life-altering medicine isn't always good. If you go into the hospital and the doctor amputates the wrong limb, your life will change, but probably not for the better.

Particularly if you went in for a tonsillectomy.

I would have gone with a slogan that more accurately conveys UPMC's central mission.

I would have gone with something like "Your Impending Medical Monopoly," "We Crush Our Competitors," or "Submit or Die" -- although those catchphrases admittedly are a bit strong for the logo's gentle purple hue.

Whether the corporate crest proves popular remains to be seen. But one thing is certain: UPMC is as protective of its baby as any teeth-baring lioness would be of cubs.

The conglomerate posted strict guidelines regarding the logo's use on its website ( Woe be to the UPMC employee who forgets to pair the logo with the mysterious mobius, or who dares to put the logo on anything other than a white background.

UPMC obviously is enamored of its public emblem. But I'm guessing the several dozen people who gathered outside its Downtown headquarters Friday to protest the imminent demolition of the Braddock hospital building haven't noticed that relaxing shade of purple.

When it comes to anything UPMC-related, the only color they see is red.

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