Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Branding Study Equals New Opportunity for Hillsdale Athletics

So Hillsdale is looking closely at defining its image and branding while studying the logos used by Hillsdale's athletic teams.

Here is my take on the issue: FINALLY! THANK YOU!

Hillsdale desperately needs a new athletic logo. The upside down lightning bolt in back of the H is not only boring, it is UPSIDE DOWN! Although a simple block letter can work well like Michigan's M, this one is just confusing.

There is a ton of potential for Hillsdale College to really crank up some excitement with this study. But, there are some key issues to remember from Hillsdale's history.

What I want to see emerge is a fun, strong, highly recognizable logo. In 1999, the University of Iowa told Hamilton Community Schools here in Michigan that we could no longer use their "Tiger Hawk" as our Hawkeye logo. A community contest ensued to design the new logo and what emerged has been a huge boon for the school district. People instantly fell in love with the new Hawk and just about anything it can be printed on is still in high demand 9 years later. I have joked that you could put that hawk on a cat turd and someone would buy it.

Is a Charger a horse or a lightning bolt?
A study of other teams around the world using "Chargers" as a nickname seem to often combine both ideas into their logos. The original San Diego Chargers logo did just that.

I am no historian but what I have found is that the term "charger" often refers to trained warhorses, especially from medieval times. Many organizations use a knight on a horse. Notice the shield that reinforces this theme. San Diego also threw in the lightning bolt as an accent and that portion has since become their dominant signature nearly 50 years later but has been on the helmets since their inception.

Hillsdale's En-lightning History
In 1969 Hillsdale students voted to adopt the nickname Chargers in place of Dales. The old joke was "What's a Dale?". An important Hillsdale tradition to understand is that the lightning bolt actually preceeded the name Chargers. As early as the 1930's Hillsdale athletic teams used a blue circle with a blue and white lightning bolt extending across the name Hillsdale. This was long before helmet decals became available but in the 1960's Muddy Waters began using a jagged style bolt that was replaced by a "San Diego" style bolt in the early 80's by Dick Lowry.

Lessons Learned
In the late 1970's head coach Ron Lynch took the bolts off the helmets in favor of the Ford Mustang, also used by Southern Methodist. He also tried a script "Chargers" decal on the helmet as well. The navy blue became powder blue and red appeared as an accent color. None of the changes were embraced by alumni and many lobbied intensely to have the more historic uniforms returned. Speaking of red, Hillsdale made the color an official part of the college's scheme several years ago and appears on various letterheads. It has gained zero traction amongst athletic teams and frankly can stay in Central Hall for all I care. If it is included in a Hillsdale athletic logo, keep it minimal.

Best of Both
If Hillsdale asked me to design a logo, and I am more than willing to help, I would start by including the horse. Heck we already have the costume. Louie the Laker (GVSU), Sparky the Sun Devil (Ariz. State), Wilbur and Wilma Wildcat (AZ), and yes the equally evil Brutus Buckeye, Sparty Spartan, and Bucky Badger all inspire crowds but more importantly SELL! A mascot instead of a letter can be animated and is frankly a lot more fun. A mascot is something people want to wear. I would also though work in a lightning bolt somewhere. Here is an idea:

I do also think it is very important to keep the bolts on the helmets. But, it might be time to explore some new bolts. People look at our helmets and think "San Diego". The old ones could be referred to as "Air Force" style. Maybe somebody needs to build a better lightning bolt. Let's have people look at our helmets and only think "Hillsdale".

Whatever Hillsdale decides needs to be fun, marketable, easily recognizable, yet still maintain the great traditions of Hillsdale College.

1 comment:

Sara said...

Creating new school mascot logos is fun, but a challenge. I did the new Hamilton Hawkeye logo and am pleased(?) that it could sell a cat turd. That made me laugh!

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