Something to Howl About – Arkansas State University

by: Mark Reeves

Mark Reeves is a 1984 graduate of Arkansas State University and Director of Publications and Creative Services. His department created the new athletic logo and collateral materials when the ASU Indians became the ASU Red Wolves.

“Can you have it in a week?” That was the second thing we were asked after the question, “Do you guys want to take a shot at designing the logo?” It didn’t take us long to answer. Sure we wanted a shot at it!

The Creative Services team — Executive Director Ron Looney, Mary Williams, Heath Kelly, Michael Johnson and I — had been watching from the sidelines up to that point. As ASU graduates, and as the group of individuals who would see and use the new logo more than any other people on the planet, we definitely wanted to give it a shot. We had been seeing the designs for our newly chosen Arkansas State mascot, Red Wolves, come in from, as the commercial says, “New York City!”

We had not been knocked over by any. Earlier in the process, the New York agency hired to come up with the mascot recommendation had worked with names supplied and had done a little extra by combing through yearbooks and seeing if there were other mascot possibilities that had been overlooked. One late night on campus was spent with the lead designer as he searched through yearbooks and other publications related to ASU. It was probably the most interesting part of the project up to that point — talking design and marketing.

Once the mascot name was decided upon, we were among some of the first people to see the proposed designs as they came in, and we were keeping them in our office. Some of the names and designs were interesting, to say the least. The logos were intricate — two-, three and sometimes four-color designs. It was different from what we were thinking. . . and yes, we had been thinking and talking about the mascot change for years.

Seeing the designs helped define our ideas about what we thought it should look like. We wanted a simpler, iconic, two-color design that would work well with the long established STATE logo.

Little did we know we would get our chance. Several weeks into the design phase, we were excited to be invited by Chancellor Robert Potts to join in the process. It was now a competition between us, the New York City group and another agency from Little Rock. We knew the direction NYC was going; ours would be nothing like that. But we had no idea what the other group would bring to the table.

Obviously, a week is a less-than-ideal time to design a logo. As we worked quickly through the process, one primary wolf head emerged and a unique custom font was designed. We were putting all our eggs in one basket and concentrating on one primary image with variations on how it would work with the STATE logo, ASU and RED WOLVES.

Thinking we only had one shot at it, we decided to tie it all together in a proposal booklet, complete with the primary mark, secondary marks and mock-ups of how they might be used. We had billboards, license plates, t-shirts, caps, helmets, basketball courts, fuzzy little stuffed animals and a mascot named Hal.

We had it all wrapped up in a nice red-and black, spiral-bound booklet; we looked almost — professional! We then sent it up to the Chancellor’s Office and waited…and waited… and waited. It may not have been that long but it sure felt like a long time. The process was kind of like Christmas — trying to find just the right gift, the weariness of not seeing it, the excitement of thinking you’ve got it, wrapping it up just right, and then waiting.

And then there’s the task of hiding the gift. We had more than one occasion when we were covering up our ideas from curious co-workers popping in from the University Advancement area. Hiding art became a daily routine.

A couple weeks later these same co-workers appeared in our office with an over-grown congratulatory card and gave us the good news — our logo was chosen!

Our design being chosen will always be one of the highlights of the Publications and Creative Services office and will be hard to top as an overall group effort.

It was a great feeling that lasted…until we were asked, “Can you have it ready to roll out, with banners, t-shirts and caps in four weeks?”

This article was originally found in our centennial publication: Arkansas State University. 100 Years. 100 Stories.

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