All girls secondary school St. Joseph Morrow Park
(SJMP) contacted the Toronto Catholic District School Board communications department about updating their athletics logo. The principal and senior staff were looking for a contemporary design that would reflect the current state of the school. Their previous logo was developed from a time before any of the current staff could recall, so they were ready for an upgrade.
They also wanted something they could use as part of the opening roll-out for their new building, currently in progress with plans to open in the next few years.
The principal of the school contacted our department and the project fell to me as I had previous experience with designing some of our other schools' athletic logos. It also helped that I have an affinity for sports, so this was something right up my alley.
The goal of the project was to have a newly implemented, professional logo that could be used to promote the school to prospective students and address dwindling enrolment numbers. The refreshed logo would be used to kickstart increased promotional efforts, in addition to being used on spirit wear for current students.
The main elements of the project consisted of designing a new logo and a word mark based on their school’s mascot, the Jaguars. In the process of the designs, I also decided it would be appropriate to provide the school with a shortened word mark based on their initials to give them options when developing their spirit wear. A separate logo with just the initials could appeal to students or staff who might not be associated with school's athletic programs but still interested in showing school pride. This extra flourish helped develop the uniqueness the principal wanted to convey to prospective students, and in the end, it became another design element that helped flesh out the branding.
Prior to this design, I had worked on logos for a few of our elementary schools. A key consideration when dealing with those logos was making sure they reflected the proper demographics, i.e. children as opposed to teens. The designs needed to be friendlier and more appealing to a younger audience. High school students tend to form a greater fraternity around their schools and the new logos needed to reflect that maturity. The jaguar could be a bit fiercer and more dangerous looking, while still appropriate for representing a school.
What I’ve found when designing school logos is that nicknames and mascots are rarely unique. To maintain distinction from established designs, my focus for this project was to incorporate specific elements from the client into the logo, using the school and the community to inform the look and feel. The school's philosophy, the building’s architecture, the student community: these are all the unique aspects that can’t be found in other designs. I’ve also found it helpful to start sketches based on photo references rather than other logos, to help stick to a distinct style.
SJMP provided me with a rough outline of what they were thinking with a mock-up one of the teachers had put together using existing logos. I took the basic idea and began my own research of jaguars as animals. I realized early on that most of existing jaguar logos do not really utilize the cat’s spots in any meaningful way, so that was one unique element I wanted to take advantage of with my designs. This informed the decision to incorporate the school’s initials into the cowl of the logo. From afar, they blend nicely as simple spots, so I enjoy that I was able to provide that small flourish for those that are taking a closer look at the final design
Jaguars were a well-suited mascot for the school, as they represent the quickness and ferocity of SJMP’s athletes. There is a natural sleekness in the animal's form which informs the curved lines for the contours of the designs. I also decided to incorporate neon green as an accent to the school's colours of black and forest green to add a bold spot of contrast. The colours work as a cohesive unit with a slight edge, meshing together in a monotone scheme.
Beyond having the name and initials of the school incorporated into the logo, I also thought there should be some visual representation of the school. A slight arch was incorporated atop the word mark, taken directly from the architecture of the entrance of their new building.
In addition to the logo, the client requested a short promo video
further develop the ideas of unity and ferocity that I had initially implemented in the logo design. I directed, shot and edited a 2-minute clip that could be used to help promote the school to prospective grade nine students. If the logo was the fresh start for the spirit of the school, the video was used as an explanation of why it was necessary.
When a client provides you with a rough layout of what they’re thinking, it’s always a difficult dance to decide how far astray you should travel from that initial idea. In this case, I decided that I would maintain the basic orientation of the design they provided, toning down their suggestions while maintaining the essence of what they were looking for. It's important to be mindful of the client's specific ask but also confident enough to make design decisions that will best serve their objectives.
Another challenge that presented itself during this process was the question of how to deliver the final product to the client. Once I saw how the client began to implement the logo, I realized the printing was inverted from the files I had provided. If I were to do this project over, I would have provided the school with a few samples in the style guide for how to apply the logos to merchandise. This is something I have learned to include on subsequent deliverables for other projects.
The following September after the launch of the new logo, the school’s numbers grew significantly from previous years. The logo has been embraced by the school and they have been using it on spirit and gym wear. The students seem very excited about the contemporary look and the expectation is that the logo will take on greater role in the school once they’ve officially moved to their new building.
- Do not stay married to your initial design. There will inevitably be changes that are needed throughout the process (a lot of which are self driven) so be open to changing things up and reworking your lines as needed.
- Know your audience. There are a lot of professional sports logos that do their best to personify the meanest, grittiest version of their mascots. But for something that will mostly be seen by high school students, it's important to think about what will work best from the perspective of the students, parents and staff.
- Be prepared to work on your own. Working in-house, you may find yourself as one of the only creatives on your team. When you're looking for someone to share opinions with or bounce ideas off of, your options may be limited. In scenarios such as this, you have to just do your best to make it work and trust that your design instincts will lead you in the right direction.