By Phil Hecken, with Kary Klismet
Last weekend, in a sub-lede buried deep beneath the 49ers uniform history, I linked to an interview I gave to Cullen Lasso of From The Rafters. Among other things, we discussed high schools poaching logos and names from pro & college teams. Here’s the relevant section:
VP: While we’re talking brand recognition, what’s your opinion on high schools using pro team brands as their own? Do you think it dilutes the pro team brand or expands the awareness?
PH: I am not a fan. In some cases, it’s done without seeking permission (and which in some cases results in a C&D from the team whose logo/name was pilfered), and in others, the approval is sought — for example, many colleges will allow a team to use their logo/likeness for $1 — but that doesn’t make the “theft” any less — it’s just legal. I think most of these schools could probably use their students — some of whom may not be athletes, but artists or creative types — to come up with both a name (mascot) and logo and use it as their own. I certainly don’t think this dilutes the pro or college brand, but it somehow seems like a bit of a cop-out for the high school. I can see how both a high school and the institution from whom they’re borrowing the logo/name might think it’s being honorific, but I value originality over all. Surely schools can use their students’ talents to come up with something that would be unique to their school.
I had mentioned that reader Kary Klismet had e-mailed me with regard to that particular section and here’s what he said relative to that:
Your answer to the question about high schools using pro team logos refreshed my memory about a recent conversation I had with a Lyft driver here in Denver. As a high school art student in Harvard, Illinois, back in the late ’80s, he designed his school’s logo, which they still use today. It’s a perfect example of the ideal you advocated – of schools using their own in-house talent to create their branding, helping to foster community pride in a way that poaching some other team’s logo never could. I’m not sure if it’s something worth sharing on Uni Watch, but I’m happy to follow up with more detail if you want to hear more of the story.
I’d hoped to follow up with Kary last weekend, as I wanted to hear more of the story. Unfortunately, we didn’t get together in time, but Kary and I got together this week and here’s his story — it’s great. I hope you enjoy:
The Harvard Hornet Logo Story
By Kary Klismet
My fascination with the aesthetics of athletics has always extended beyond the big sports leagues to the regional and local level, in particular high school nicknames and logos. I love the hometown flavor of unique team names and quirky designs that can be found across the country, quite often in smaller and rural communities.
That’s why Phil and Paul’s advocacy of locally-sourced logos for high schools – the idea that schools should abandon the all-too-frequent practice of poaching logos from professional and college sports teams and use the talent within their own schools and communities to create something they can call their own. I recently had a chance meeting with someone that illustrated just how well that concept can work (and has worked) if schools would just give it the chance.
Not long ago, I caught a ride from a Lyft driver named Steve. Striking up a friendly conversation as I usually do with people I’ve just met, we chatted about our common Midwestern roots. I spent several years in Iowa, and he’s a native of Harvard, Illinois, a town of about 9,000 people some 75 miles northwest of Chicago.
Our conversation turned to sports, including my appreciation for the pride that high school athletics often engenders in small-town communities like Harvard. That led Steve to tell me the story of how he designed the logo for Harvard High School’s sports teams – the Hornets – during his senior year in 1987.
The school administration had tasked Steve’s art class with creating a new logo. A prolific artist in his younger days, Steve’s design was chosen as the winner. His prize: nothing more than the gratitude of the Harvard High School community and the admiration of his classmates. But, Steve said, the fact that Harvard was still using his logo to this day was prize enough for him.
Steve hasn’t lived in Harvard in years (I think he said he’d been in Colorado for at least ten years or more). He works in the tech sector and is paid by the project. He drives for Lyft as a side hustle and in-between project assignments. It sounds like his work can sometimes touch on the design aspects of the tech world, but for the most part, he doesn’t do nearly as much drawing and artwork as he did in his days at Harvard High School.
Even so, Steve said that there are many people back in Harvard, especially among his generation and older, who still remember him and his contribution to the community. The younger generations and current high school students may not know him, but they are astounded to find out that he designed a logo you can find just about everywhere in town. It’s as if its omnipresence had led them to assume it had just always existed.
As he told me the story about his claim to local fame, Steve was nonetheless quite humble about it all. He remained amazed that anyone, whether in his hometown or elsewhere would make a big deal about something as supposedly insignificant as a logo. I told him about Uni Watch, and he was perfectly happy to let me share his story with like-minded Uni Watchers, even if yet still somewhat perplexed that anyone would be all that interested.
As the ride was coming to an end, I pulled up my phone and did some quick internet searching.
“Is this your logo?” I asked him, showing him my screen with the image I’d found:
His eyes brightened with recognition and he chuckled, seemingly amused at how quickly our modern information age had allowed me to track down his 33-year-old handiwork. “Yep, that’s it,” he confirmed. “Hard to believe it’s still going strong all these decades later…”
Personally, I love this logo! Sure, it’s not some sleek, polished product you might get from a professional graphic design firm. But there’s an endearingly amateur quality to it that fits perfectly with the high school ethos. Knowing that it was created so earnestly by someone in the community is definitely part of its charm. Besides all that, it’s fun! The cartoon-style design, with its faux-vicious snarl and puffed-out chest, gives it a whimsical quality reminiscent of mascot logos of an earlier era.
For its intended purpose, I think this logo works brilliantly. Created by one of their own, it’s something that Harvard students, alumni, and community members can embrace as being part of themselves. And embrace it they have! By all accounts, Steve’s logo is ubiquitous in Harvard. It adorns the walls of the high school gym, basketball and football scoreboards, and you can find it on basketball uniforms, softball batting helmets, and fan apparel.
This would be a great place to wrap up the story and mention how they all lived happily ever after, but I discovered an interesting wrinkle to this story as I was researching it. It appears that Harvard High School has come out with a new, updated version of its Hornets logo:
As far as I can tell, this one has been around for about five years. All the photos I’ve found of it date from around 2015 and after. I can’t find anything online explaining Harvard’s rationale for updating the logo. My guess is that it was intended to clean up some of the more intricate details of the original, like the eye that’s partially obscured by the angle of the hornet’s face and the ribbing on the cuffs and collar of the sweater.
The quality of the updated logo makes it look like Harvard followed their original path and chose a local amateur designer (likely a student) to handle the makeover. Which is to their credit, but with all due respect, the new design is a downgrade from Steve’s original:
Comparing the two side-by-side, the new logo looks quite a bit more amateurish. The head is flatter, less three-dimensional, and the snarl is too pronounced compared to the subtleties of Steve’s work. Quite frankly, it seems fairly obvious that the new version was designed by a high schooler, whereas Steve’s design, for all its lack of polish, has a timeless quality that just holds up better.
The new logo has already made inroads at Harvard. It’s on the exterior of the high school, the basketball floor, and the school’s website. But Steve’s logo has by no means disappeared. It’s still featured on the school’s athletics website, and several of the sports teams still use it on social media. It’s also not too hard to find instances of the two logos peacefully coexisting throughout the school.
I think it’s safe to consider Steve the “spiritual father” of Harvard’s hornet logo, no matter the version. This is much like the way University of Iowa fans view their “Herky the Hawk” mascot. The late cartoonist Dick Spencer III, a U of I grad and longtime journalism instructor who drew the original sketches of the impish hawk character, is widely regarded as Herky’s progenitor, including the various versions that have followed his original. And Spencer’s original concept is still quite popular among Iowa fans, so there’s plenty of reason to hope that Steve’s venerable hornet logo can have similar staying power.
By any measure, the Harvard Hornets logo has to be seen as a success. Whether you prefer the updated logo or Steve’s original, they both tell a better story and instill a deeper sense of community pride than appropriating some college or pro sports team’s logo ever could. And there’s no question that the logos, imbued with all that hometown spirit, have infinitely more character than the generic clip art that some online high school apparel retailers use for multiple teams with the same or similar mascots.
Finally, if imitation is an indicator of success, there’s no question Steve’s logo has achieved it. His original Harvard Hornet has been poached by plenty of other schools. I guess pro and college teams aren’t the only victims of lazy, unoriginal schools who are too short-sighted to understand the benefits of designing their own brands that their communities can rally around. If that doesn’t prove the power of locally-sourced logo creation for high schools, I don’t know what does!
Fascinating story, Kary! Thank you so much for sharing (it was definitely worth the wait!).
OK readers? What say you? And what are your thoughts and feelings on this matter? Is poaching ever OK, and if so, when and why? If your high school uses a poached logo, would you support having a contest to design a new one, one designed by a student(s)?
Big thanks to Kary for sharing. You’ll never know what you’ll learn from your Lyft/Uber driver!
Sunday Morning XFL Watch
Well, that wasn’t so bad!
The XFL, Mach Deuce, kicked off yesterday, and featured two games. The first, the Seattle Dragons vs. DC Defenders, looked pretty nice. As expected, it was a mono-color vs. mono-color game, and both teams looked pretty good. As I opined yesterday, I think Seattle’s road kit (the all white) is far superior to their home (mono-navy), but their all white looked pretty good. It definitely helped the Defenders to wear white socks, although not everyone got the memo.
You can see more photos and get some commentary here.
The second game was also pretty good looking: that featured the LA Wildcats at the Houston Roughnecks, and well…
I’m not a huge fan of the Wildcats mono-white unis, and I’m definitely not a fan of the big orange shoulder caps, side panels, and orange-to-black fade pants stripes, but it wasn’t the worst looking uniform I’ve ever seen. On the other hand, the Roughnecks uni looks pretty nice. I didn’t realize how bad the jersey side panel was, but that’s about the only flaw in that uni. The side stripe looks even worse when guys don’t tuck in their undershirts though. Still, it was a pretty nice matchup, uni-wise.
You can see more photos and read more commentary here.
For those who don’t wish to click the links, Graig paints baseball heroes (and regular guys) from the past, and is an immense talent.
Occasionally, I will be featuring his work on Uni Watch.
Here’s today’s offering (click to enlarge):
Subject: “Wee Willie” Keeler, 1912
Medium: Oil on linen
Size: 16″ x 20″
The Baltimore Orioles of the 1890s were considered one of the premier dynasties of the 19th century, being almost solely responsible for the run-and-gun play that was the rage in the first twenty years of the 1900s. Place hitting, bunting and speed were paramount to their success, and players like Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Hughie Jennings, Joe Kelley and Wilbert Robinson were some of the ingredients that brought all of that together. In that time, the ballclub took three National League pennants and two Temple Cups (a prelude to the World Series). By the end of the century though, The owner of the ballclub, Henry Von der Horst, acquired controlling stock in the then-moribund Brooklyn Superbas, and as a result, sent many of his star players to the newly minted borough, among them, Keeler.
Willie was born and had grown up in Brooklyn’s Bedford (now Bed-Stuy) neighborhood and teamed up with former Baltimore teammates Kelley, Jennings and Bill Dahlen to lead the Superbas to the pennant in 1899 and 1900. And for the next decade and change, Keeler continued to hit. Staying with Brooklyn until the birth of the American League, he jumped to and played out the rest of his productive years with the New York Highlanders (who would officially become the Yankees in 1913). He went on to coach for John McGraw and the New York Giants in 1910, and after a short stint in the Eastern League, returned to Brooklyn in 1912, joining former teammate and now-manager, Bill Dahlen. The title of the painting, “Reunited”, refers to Keeler’s homecoming to the borough that year. By then, Keeler could look back on an almost-20-year career that saw him become one of the best hitters in the history of the game. To this day, he remains in the upper echelon of career batting averages: .341, good for 14th place all-time.
Thanks, Graig! You can (and should!) follow Graig on Twitter.
from the scoreboard
Today’s scoreboard comes from Lesh Philling.
The premise of the game (GTGFTS) is simple: I’ll post a scoreboard and you guys simply identify the game depicted. In the past, I don’t know if I’ve ever completely stumped you (some are easier than others).
Here’s the Scoreboard. In the comments below, try to identify the game (date & location, as well as final score). If anything noteworthy occurred during the game, please add that in (and if you were AT the game, well bonus points for you!):
Please continue sending these in! You’re welcome to send me any scoreboard photos (with answers please), and I’ll keep running them.
And now a few words from Paul
Hi there. A few reminders of some ongoing projects:
• In case you missed it on Thursday, my latest Uni Watch design challenge, which I’m doing in conjunction with InsideHook, is to redesign the New England Patriots. With the Brady/Belichick era nearing its conclusion, this seems like the right time for it. Full details here.
• The February design for the Uni Watch Pin Club is now available. As you can see, we’re going with a Presidents Day-themed design. Note Honest Abe’s stovepipe squatchee! Just like in January, we’re doing a numbered edition of 350, with the number and month laser-etched on the back of each pin. (If you need to get caught up, the January pinand our basic winged stirrup pin are also still available.)
Okay, handing the baton back to Phil!
Uni Watch News Ticker
Baseball News: According to this tweet from Fabian Ardaya, “Angels outfielder Justin Upton is changing his jersey number from No. 8 to No. 10, in part to pay tribute to the passing of Kobe (and Gianna) Bryant, I’m told. He’s also used it in past stops with ARI, SD. Kobe’s No. 8 + Gianna’s No. 2 = 10.” (from Jakob Fox). … We’re just days away from pitchers & catchers (!!!!!) but for the moment, here are the “best” jerseys for every MLB team. I disagree with more than half of that list. … Frank McGuigan noticed a rather unfortunate pair of apostrophe catastrophes on some rest room doors.
NFL News: Los Angeles Rams COO Kevin Demoff has posted a “Ram” logo on his twitter profile, which has some fans thinking it could be the “new” Rams logo, but others think he’s just trolling them. … “Was watching A Football Life for Terry Bradshaw and noticed these super tiny JETS logos (one on each end) is the end zone,” writes Brad Eenhuis. He adds, “Feels like they were done by someone who had no clue.” … Also from Brad, “Watching A Football Life for Troy Aikman and saw these gray/blue pants.” … “Came across this on Derrick Henry’s Instagram feed: double Nike,” says Thomas Courtman. “Can’t explain the doubling of ticks -= doesn’t appear to be another top the same colour over the top.” … Things will look different at a Montreal Alouettes game in 2020. There will be no cheerleading squad. They have been dropped for budgetary reasons (from Wade Heidt). There is a petition circulating to bring them back. … Shocking: bryanwdc writes, “New survey of Native Americans with new results that contradict the greater Washington area football team’s position.” … Rocker T Collectibles says “This is the view of my Helmet Room desk at Rocker T. The NFL backsplash has begun the “turn” onto the next wall. Second pic shows my vantage point from my chair.” … Sideline Yard Markers are being given the XFL treatment this time around (from Blue Maple). … “Good look at the XFL on ESPN score bug, which features betting odds,” observes Josh Hinton). Well, at least the league is good for something. … Washington uses an “Q” in their NOB font (from Marcus Hall). … Also from Marcus: looks like some high quality iron on numbers for XFL jerseys. … Carpenter Riley writes, “To my knowledge there is only two published photographs of the 1971 NFL Properties Inc belt buckle set. One the catalog omitting two buckles: Saints&Pats. The other is this photo taken from my 1973 NFL Merchandise Catalog.” That’s from this thread.
College Football News: In the 1983 Independence Bowl Ole Miss wore white w/ blue numbers in the first half, due to horrible weather changed to white w/ red numbers in 2nd half (no bowl logo on 2nd). From The Notorious JPC, who asks “Ever seen this?” … The ever-awesome Blaise D’Sylva has added to his Mizzou helmet collection: “When I posted Missouri’s helmet history in early January I was missing 13 helmets from 18/19. Here is the complete helmet history. 46 different helmets.” … We’ve seen “Jr.,” “Sr.” “III” and I’m pretty sure “IV” surnames as NOBs, but is Emmitt Williams V the first time we’ve seen that (from Benji King).
Hockey News: “NHLPA issues portraits to honor career milestones,” explains Mike Engle. The “Template is current jersey up front, and career snapshots in the numbers. In Zach Parise’s 1000 NHL game picture, a minor league picture is used. You can tell because of the shoulder patch and the number. Very weird because minor league games don’t count for service time!” … Colorado College debuted new hockey uniforms against St. Cloud State on Friday night, based on the new logo set unveiled by the school earlier in the day. Submitter Kary Klismet adds, “I hope these are alternates, because why wouldn’t you put that sharp new tiger head logo on the front of your primary sweaters instead of the word mark?” … Also from Kary, here’s a cool video from the Denver Pioneers hockey team in which goaltender Devin Cooley explains the meaning behind the symbols on his mask. … Here is Jack Campbell’s new Maple Leafs mask (from Jakob Fox). … “This was made by The Copp Clark Publishing Co. in Toronto,” writes Michael Sullivan. “I did some digging and found some gorgeous old stuff like this incredible NHL board game from 1957. Do a Google Images search and you’ll see some awesome old stuff.” (that reply was in regard to this earlier tweet). … There’s Pink in the Rink and then there’s a pink rink (from Jakob Fox). … Check out Colorado College’s new logo/hockey uniform. Submitter Kurt Crowley adds, they “Also wore the black jerseys at home, at least for Friday night game.”
NBA News: Shaquille O’Neal’s son Shareef (who recently announced his transfer from UCLA) has tattooed a large Kobe Bryant memorial onto his leg (from Kary Klismet). … Steph Curry joined in on the Kobe tributes last night by wearing #24.
College Hoops News: Gonzaga announced on Friday it will honor Adam Morrison by hanging his jersey prior to February 27 game. … Wow, CMU sure has some tiny numbers on their gold alternate jerseys (good spot by BlueMaple). … Yesterday Vilkanova wore ’71 retro threads with a special edition BIG EAST 40th Anniversary patch in their game vs. Seton Hall (from Jimmer Vilk). … Beautiful throwback unis for the College of Charleston (from Daren Stoltzfus). … Yesterday featured a a Philly Big 5 color vs color game, with La Salle in home yellow, St. Joe’s in red (from uɐʎɹ sı ǝɯɐu ʎɯ). … James Gilbert notes, “Twitter isn’t sure who UNC is playing and they’re using an old UNC logo.” Maybe because both UNC & Dook are wearing alternate unis. The interwebs weren’t too happy about it either. … I’m not sure where this is from (submitter didn’t specify), but Zack Heiple writes, “I can’t recall ever seeing a checkerboard pattern in the paint for basketball before.” … Timmy Donahue has another scorebug bug: “Arkansas in Anthracite for Anthracite’s sake on the road against Mizzou in gold. So why not give Mizzou the black fill on the score bug? @espn are we even trying anymore?” … Oregon and Oregon State played a gorgeous color vs. color game in their Hoops Civil War (from Jakob Fox). … Ok State and Baylor played another nice color vs. color game (from Josh Hinton). … Timmy Donahue thinks “UC Irvine may want to rethink the font for their NOB. Meanwhile UC Santa Barbara is sporting their mascot & school seal on the back instead of names. Don’t think I’ve ever seen that combo before.”
Soccer News: New York City FC in discussion to build a 25,000 seat stadium near Yankee Stadium (from Wade Heidt). … Italian side Inter will wear a one-off sleeve badge in the Derby Milano support of the Chinese population as the Coronavirus continues to take lives (from Josh Hinton and also Jeremy Brahm). Here’s a bit more on that. … More from Josh: The Everton club charity took the place of SportPesa as yesterday’s shirt advertiser against Crystal Palace. It appears as though every English team will wear the #HeadsUp campaign on their shirt this weekend as well. Crystal Palace also wore the #HeadsUp charity patch on the sleeve, taking the place of the Premier League sleeve badge. Bristol City did the same Friday night in their EFL Champ match; conversely, Birmingham City put the #HeadsUp patch centre of the chest. … Have eleven minutes to kill? You could find worse ways to spend it than watching this video detailing all the new soccer stadiums opening in 2020 (from Kary Klismet).
Grab Bag: ICYMI: Greece has unveiled new uniforms for the 2020 Olympics. Kary Klismet notes, “The article doesn’t explicitly mention it, but these appear to be Opening Ceremonies and medals podium uniforms.” … An Iowa State senior industrial design class has teamed up with the ISU Police Dept to address some uniform related issues faced by police officers (from Timmy Donahue). … “Good looking” men’s volleyball matchup last night between BYU & Pepperdine (from Jimmer Vilk). He also noticed some number font inconsistencies. … The Southwest Montana Veterans Home, which is set to open in Butte later this year, is hosting a logo design contest. The contest for local students & artists to create a visual representation for the home online & on other platforms (from Timmy Donahue).