For Huskies, the University of Washington means many things. To the majority of people outside the UW community, the school is an image—a purple block W.
When people look at the logo, no matter where they are, they don’t just see the logo. They see their personal experiences with the university, and their impressions are based on media and other sources. They see the UW’s reputation.
With its logo, mascot and color scheme, the UW has always tried to represent the students, the school and the ideals held here. The brand’s evolution has taken some unusual twists and turns but has endlessly inspired students and alumni alike. Let’s open the history books and look back at nearly a century of UW logos.
First, some interesting notes:
- Until 1919, the UW did not have a mascot and used only the block W. But as other schools adopted mascots across the nation, Columns reported, student leaders realized that Washington needed an icon.
- The nickname “Sun Dodgers” was used until the UW switched to Huskies in 1922. Wanting to move away from Sun Dodgers, university officials decided to go with Vikings but students immediately protested and the school settled on Huskies a few months later.
- It wasn’t until 1984 that the UW agreed it needed a clear identity and moved to adopt a consistent logo and color scheme. Before that, more than 550 licensees were authorized to use either the block W or Husky logos, and the result was a mishmash of UW imagery.
Our story begins with a drawing in the Sept. 1919 issue of the on-campus magazine, Sun Dodger, in which a staff artist depicted a fictional UW student named “Sunny Boy,” a smiling freshman wearing a huge bow tie and carrying an umbrella (right). Despite the initial protests of magazine staff, the name “Sun Dodgers” stuck with the local press and Sunny Boy grew in popularity. Eventually, students commissioned a 3-foot-tall wooden statue in his likeness and carried it to the away football games. See the video from the Husky Hall of Fame.
An article in the Washington Alumnus, which later became Columns magazine, noted the Husky is “a symbol of willingness, courage, endurance, strength and fight.” After settling on the new name, university officials were most excited to use a live dog as an on-the-field mascot, and felt the name Huskies “suggests the idea that Washington is the most northern American university on the Pacific Coast.” A nod to our neighbors to the north, eh?
The Husky logo itself underwent many changes over the years. Sometimes it would smile slightly (1932). Other times it looked a little mean (1971). Sometimes it appeared cartoonish (1959). Other times it was serenely realistic (1979). For a few years in the 1950s, the logo returned to the block W that had been popular before 1919, and when the Husky design converged with the block W for the first time in 1979, the W stayed on.
In 2001, the UW finished a two-year collaboration with Nike to create a standardized color system and modern Husky logo (left). Athletics Director Barbara Hedges told The Daily at the time, “It’s a very striking logo. It gives our student athletes a strong identity that they deserve.” Not everyone was excited about the new design, however. A UW sophomore was quoted in a 2001 Daily column: “I can’t trust it. The old one had so much pride. It was a loyal dog. The new one looks like it’s going to steal my hamburger from the barbecue.”
The UW’s current branding initiative began in 2007 and moved the focus back to the block W. In doing so, the university is creating a brand that anyone can recognize simply by seeing the purple W. Bold, bright purple lends itself to the innovative nature of UW students and alumni, while the block lettering shows we are unabashedly proud to stand out among the crowd.
In a 2005 Alumni Vote, UW graduates selected the 1995 logo (right) as their all-time favorite. This rendition shows a determined Husky with a block W in the background. What’s your favorite UW logo? Which logo was in effect during your time on campus?
Please do share!
Graphic by Ken Shafer Design.