April A.D. Report

There's been a lot of talk this week about the new look for Oregon State athletics. Although a font never scored a touchdown, dunked a basket or smashed a homerun, it's the little things that matter when you're talking about being a nationally recognized program. That's why this was an important move for us.

During the last several years, we’ve shown that the Beavers are for real on a national stage. It really started with the 2001 Fiesta Bowl win over Notre Dame. Since that time, there’ve been four other bowl games, including last season’s Sun Bowl victory. There’s been a national baseball championship and a solid run by softball at the NCAA Women’s College World Series. And there have been many other sports that have had Top 20 national rankings and student-athletes participating on a national stage—from gymnastics to swimming to wrestling. In the last five years, we’ve been on national or regional TV a record number of times.

Although we still have work to do, we’ve reached a new phase in our ongoing efforts for improvements. We’ve arrived at a new level, and it was time to make this change to better represent Oregon State on a national stage. Our main purpose for pursuing this from an athletics perspective was to develop a unique font and numbering system that is only available to us. We’re currently working on a trademark of the newly created font so we can guarantee its exclusivity.

An exciting new partnership with Nike is furthering this change. For the first time, we are considered one of about 30 “promo” schools nationally. This means there will be more retail lines available and a bigger investment from Nike to provide gear exclusively for 15 of our 17 sports. Nike designed the new numbering that will be displayed in the second phase of the new brand identity system later this month. We’ll showcase our new football uniforms live on our website (Beaver Nation Online) at Noon on April 27.

This was a long and involved process. The creation of the new identity system began in the Fall of 2005 and involved many people along the way. Some of our coaches, student-athletes, professors, alums and others gave important input and insight throughout this time. The essence of the project was to establish a new look for our lettering and numbering system. The result was a newly designed font.

Michael Morrow, a former graphic designer and creative director for Nike, led the design process. His team originally had 14 different concepts that they developed before narrowing those ideas to three concepts, which they presented to us. Those three proposals were vetted in focus groups for additional feedback. After months of work on this project, it was exciting to finally unveil the results. (brand identity)

Morrow, who’s boutique design agency has worked with many sports-related clients such as ESPN, Notre Dame, and the Cleveland Browns, explained that there were a few guiding principles that informed the design process:

  • Visually differentiate Oregon State from other universities with similar color schemes and/or lettering. The “Interlock OS” clearly and obviously stands for Oregon State.
  • Limit the number of letters to one or two. This strategy aligns with traditional monogram design principles of using one or two letters identify athletic teams.

So with those principles in mind, the new look was created. The interlocking “OS” also signifies values that are core to our program—teamwork, unity, family. Although minimal in its design, the letters are streamlined to symbolize speed and strength. The newly designed font type uses arches at the top and bottom of the “O” and “S”—visually reminiscent of steel beams, broad shoulders and honed athletic muscles. For those of us who aren’t graphic designers, these nuances aren’t obvious, I’m sure. But once explained by the design team, they sure add up to an impressive identity.

Yes, we’ll still have the established Beaver head as our primary logo. The new “OS” will be the primary monogram, which some teams, including baseball, are already using.

While change is never easy, I want to stress that this new branding effort will enable us to create a common identity and set us apart from other schools that have similar color schemes and abbreviations.

I understand that there will undoubtedly be traditionalists and fans who will find it hard to jump immediately on the new “OS” bandwagon. With all things visual—paintings, sculpture, performance art, and even athletic logos—there are lots of opinions. Bottom line: we needed to make our mark on a national stage—to be consistent and distinctive. These changes will help us do that.

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