Professional logos are vital to any serious institution. The Marine Corps. Fed Ex. Yahoo. Harvard University. Starbucks. The Phoenix Suns. Their logos are, appropriately and understandably, sacred to their organization.
School logos, specifically high school logos, should be uncomplicated, visceral and reflect the spirit of the institution. They should assist in fostering a sense of solidarity, pride and ownership with the school.
To be successful, the new North High School Mustang logo needed to be contemporary, with the ability to visually assist in moving the school forward while not being overly tethered to the past. It should appear iconic when viewed on letterhead, the school marquee, on t shirts, caps, backpacks, helmets as well as social media sites.
The process began in May of 2014 when alumni members of the Class of 1974 reunion organizing team contacted North directly about the possibility of “giving back” to their alma mater. Assistant Principal and Head of Athletics, Mr. Ray Pino, suggested that they consider replacing the mosaic tile medallion (The Quad Medallion) of the school mascot (the mustang horse) at the center of campus, which was in disrepair.
Initial research showed that North High did not have one “official” logo, but numerous logos in use. To reference, the image represented on the Quad Medallion did not match the one used on the schools web site, which did not match the one on the side of the football stadium. North High could not locate recorded paperwork supporting either the origin or approval on the current medallion design.
Recognizing that the Class of 1974 was not willing to invest money and effort into replacing the “wrong” logo on the medallion, it was discussed then agreed with both Principal Nunez and the PUHS District* that the Class of 1974 would assist in facilitating a design contest to help create one official, definitive Mustang logo for the school.
Fundraising efforts began in earnest for construction cost associated with replacing The Quad Medallion, while an international design contest (underwritten by the Class of 1974) began to locate the ideal graphic artist to interpret the new school emblem.
Early on, the design team discussed how they would steer away from using only the “head-and-neck” of the mustang horse since numerous institutions (from Brophy Prep to Boise State to the Denver Broncos) were currently utilizing similar imagery. Through this exclusion, the design team could bypassing any possible conflict or confusion with other organizations using the mustang.
Research showed that utilizing a mad, aggressive, dragon-like animal as the “ideal” school logo had become a thing of the past. Thankfully, over the years, images of stealth and dexterity had replaced wild and steroidal when it came to modern school logo design.
The focus then became to design a logo that was not exclusive to sports, but the whole NPHS team. In this case, “team” meant the entire school – staff, faculty, administrators, students and even parents. A SCHOOL logo was needed, not a SPORTS logo. Even though athletics remains an important and vital part of all high school programs, a well-designed school logo should serve beyond athletics.
After numerous conversations with both District and North High, a Design Directive was created to assist in helping the artist have clear goals, parameters and artistic direction. Notes included….
1. Artwork must be original. No direct or indirect usage of clip art, derivation from clip art, or interpretation from any other current or existing school, university or professional sports logo(s) should be used, referenced or copied.
2. Logo design must apply itself beyond just sports. Although the use of logos as affiliated with sports is normally the most recognizable, the official school logo must serve across numerous mediums and departments associated with The high school.
3. Final original art work, irrelevant of budget or cost, should be professionally rendered and executed. If possible, every effort must be made to utilize highly skilled, professional graphic artist and illustrators, not just locally, but from the around the world. This “international” approach would serve to reinforce an inclusive, diverse and global focus to the project, as well as accurately reflecting the diversity of the school as it is today.
4. The final logo should be modern in both its feel and design, reflecting the schools growth and development. This type of imagery allows for easier branding and encourage fuller participation from todays students as well as student associations.
When Apple or Nike approaches design, it first addresses a base need, then creatively designs beyond that point. This is the backbone of great design.
This classic design philosophy served the design team well when refining and editing the finalist in the logo design contest.
From the nearly 250 international designs submitted for review, 10 logo designs stood above the rest. Working directly with the artists, the design team was able to assist 10 of these artist to further refine their submissions. From that process, 3 finalist were selected – they were from Indonesia, Brazil and Romania. With guidance from executive staff at North High, the Brazilian artist was named as the winner (as per the terms of the design contest, the artists name has been withheld).
The idea that The Class of 1974 was willing to assisting in these needed changes was clearly historic, one that no other class in the 75 year history of North Phoenix High School had instigated or facilitated before.
This new emblem of NPHS has a powerful backstory. The winning logo is reflective of our current times, yet visually looks to the future. It has humanity, energy and a perfect amount of humor and wit. Through its innate confidence, it exudes leadership and authority.
By not being over-designed, sophisticated or slick, The New North Logo honors the power behind great design by addressing an emotional component through an elegant solution.
Appropriately juvenile in spirit and unapologetically modern, this handsome, proud, self-assured new Mustang ushers in an exciting new chapter in the evolution of North Phoenix High School.
* As of this writing, official status from PHUS District is pending for The New North Logo.
** Full disclosure, Joseph Noble, the Editor in Chief of GreatDesign.com is an alumni of North High School as well as a member of the Class of 1974.