Tuesday, April 15, 2014

My conversation with FSU's Athletic Department

I was invited to speak with representatives from FSU Athletics after my first and second blog posts about the new logo design.

Many folks contacted me afterward and today asking if I was ok and, of course, how it went. My delay in posting was actually mundane: I was sleepy and I had Life to do.  I read every one of the e-mails I received from my last post (nearly 600 emails, and they're still coming!) and I needed to sleep. And do laundry. Because my husband and I were completely out of socks. This also is not my day job, or even my night job, really.  I am not a writer.  I barely know how to use a comma.  And by barely, I mean not really at all.  I am flattered though that so many of you poked me with a digital, internet stick to make sure I wasn't dead.

Ok, the good stuff.  If you are a fan of spoilers (or tl;dr, too long; didn't read) skip to the last section.

I should preface: Athletics did not ask me to stay silent. They didn't threaten my job or me.  They did not offer me anything, which was really really smart of them. By all accounts, the folks I met with were friendly Humans with kids and jobs and lives with no intentions of assimilating me into a creepy machine. They also did not ask me to cover for them, which is cool, since I was already not going to do that.

So, what did we talk about then?

The FSU Athletics representatives explained that this was a meeting to clear the air and be more transparent to me and those of you interested in what I have to say.  This meeting was not at all about my alternate logo design.  Zero.  I was the only one to acknowledge it existed, except for one representative who vented about how annoyed he was to get a phonecall about it on his cell phone.  I am not surprised at the lack of mention, just confused about the idea that they brought me there because I have some kind of Rebel Alliance I control.  Nah man, just me and my computer.  Well, and the thousands of ticked off fans and alums.

Here, translated into Jodi-speak, is what Athletics said:

Who was consulted (and who was not)
This process of FSU Athletics branding changes started a long while ago, long before the Coach's Trophy was a twinkle in our eye(s).  Interestingly enough, FSU went to Nike asking to re-evaluate our Athletic identity.  Their concern was that there was little uniformity in logos across sports.  Soccer had their own logo, Baseball had the interlocking "FS," all other sports had the Seminole Head wait, really that's it? Two sports? Why not just have soccer and baseball use the Seminole head?  Oh well, let's keep going. [edit 9:45 AM 4.16.14- I was informed that many other sports have their own logos, like men's basketball, women's basketball, etc, so this is not an accurate statement] They also claimed they wanted to feature the Seminole Head more prominently and could not in the past, because apparently sewing machines run in terror at the sight of the Seminole Head.

They explained that their process included former players, current players, current coaches, Seminole Boosters and the Seminole Tribe of Florida.  Still not sure at which part of the process, but let's keep going.  They told me a person at least somewhat related to each of these groups evaluated the logo at some stage of the process and the approval button was hit to unveil it.  The Athletic Department feels that they did their due diligence in contacting and getting "approval" from each and every one of these groups.

The Athletic Department admitted that they never intended to include other fans or alumni (that do not work at the University) in focus groups.  There was all but an eye roll to the idea of a fan polling because "you have to stop your focus group somewhere."  Ok, then I strongly disagree on where you stopped it.  In my profession, you have to communicate to your target audience to be effective.  Their target audience was clearly only those on the "inside" of the University.  High level folks. Top. Men.  

The idea was thrown to me that the majority of fans, Boosters, and alums like the new logo but they're afraid to say anything.  I know there are people who like the logo.  I acknowledge they exist.  Some of these people have personally contacted me, and I encourage that.  Are they a majority?  I don't think anyone knows that, even athletics.  But what I can't do is refute an argument against a theoretical group of people, this "silent majority"they speak of.  I could come out and say that one hundred thousand fluffy bunnies hate the logo, but until they type out e-mails with their little bunny paws you have no way of telling me they don't.  Even though I can see it in their eyes.  And their twitchy little noses.  And you can't tell me I'm wrong.

I was also encouraged to stare at the logo until I liked it.  That it would grow on me.  Ain't nobody got time for that. [EDIT 9:45 AM 4.16.14- Ok, misleading.  No one was strong arming me into liking it.  It was said that others liked it the longer they looked at it.  I was free and encouraged to have my own opinion, no matter how long I (voluntarily) looked at it.]

"Subtle Changes"
The Athletics representatives explained to me that they believed, in their heart of hearts, that the changes they were making were subtle.  Let's live in a world where that is accurate for a moment and keep going.  They explained that, unlike other Universities that have more completely shifted their athletic logos, this was merely a retooling of a classic. Their example was Arizona State University in 2011. Ok, so let's look at what happened at ASU:

ASU went through an Athletics rebranding in 2011, the crux of which was to have the Trident instead of Sparky on the side of football helmets.  But did they get rid of Sparky or change him?   No. At least not without fan/alum input.  The ASU news site lists groups included in their redesign process and a curious group comes up: fans. In fact, their fans vehemently disliked the new Sparky mascot costume redesign so much that they later went to a fan poll where the fans and alums chose the design. During their fiasco one fan even wrote:
“(We) support ASU 110 percent, but sometimes just can’t understand why ASU wants to change a good thing. Change isn’t always a good thing.” 
Yeah.  We feel you. To bring it all home, the redesign at ASU was done by, you guessed it, Nike.  FSU Athletics was also quick to dismiss MSU's Nike logo disaster as not at all similar to ours.

Can this logo change?
583 e-mails, less than one day for me.
At the end of the meeting, I felt stunned and confused.  The representatives told me, actually spoke the words, that we would just have to "agree to disagree."  I was asked if I would continue to "feed the flames" of angry fans, to allow inflammatory comments, e-mails, and phone calls to hurt the feelings of people employed by the Athletic Department.  I was at a loss for words.  I was also personally offended.  First, I don't control the internet, what people say or do, how passionate they get, or whether they read my freakin' blog.  No, sir, I don't edit their e-mails and I didn't direct them to write nasty things to you.  I don't pass around a Burn Book.  Second...that was asking me to just accept it.  Just be a good girl and run around and bark and tire yourself out until the "agree to disagree" mentality becomes the "agree and we don't want to look like jerks anymore" mentality.

So what will I do?  Social media is the only tool we have to realize the changes we would like to see with our University's image. And I, with a real or imagined responsibility to those who have contacted me and still to share my opinion/support my redesign, will continue to carry the voices of so many to Athletics.  I will continue to voice my opinions in a professional manner until I hear official statements from the groups athletics "consulted" during this design process.  Then, and only then, will I just be a good girl.  Because I do not think this is too big for us to change, but I cannot do it alone, and we cannot do it by just contacting Athletics. The folks in Athletics have been getting a lot of e-mails and phone calls about this.  A lot. In fact, I printed nearly 600 of the e-mails folks sent me, spiral bound them, and personally handed them off.  Is 600 a representative sample size?  Of course not.  But it is something, and I feel those e-mails, only five of which are in favor of the new logo, represent the majority opinion of fans and alumni.

This is not fun.  For either side in this family feud.  And it has, unfortunately, gotten personal on both sides. I really, honestly, wish it wouldn't.  This has caused a rift in our Seminole Nation and it stems from institutional arrogance and, believe it or not, poor communication.

[Edit 4.16.14: I will reiterate that name calling is not cool in my book.  Venting frustrations, fine.  Directed personal attacks? Not fine and also not really effective.  We're all Noles and will all be going to the same stadium when this is over, so let's not make it super awkward.  Still...that doesn't mean I can't have an express an opinion.]

For more info, see the article posted online today on Tallahassee Democrat's website (in print on Monday, I believe) by Ira Schoffel.  I also did a video interview with Paul Flemming of the Democrat talking about the amazing responses I've received and how it was just bananas.  Like a whole bunch of bananas.  Either way, thank you all for the love and support.  Seriously.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

I'm meeting with FSU Athletics tomorrow and I want your thoughts!

Noles, I need your help.  As many of you know, I will be meeting with FSU Athletics tomorrow morning. I need help, evidence, about how the fans and alumni feel. So, and I can't believe I'm saying this, e-mail me at sladeillustration@gmail.com with the Subject "Dear FSU Athletics" and say, in one or two sentences, what you would like to say to Athletics. You can also tweet me @jodisladeart with #DearFSUAthletics. This can be on the logo design itself, on how they mishandled their PR, or even just to say "keep up the good work, go Noles." I will read these, share these, and bring these statements to athletics tomorrow and pass them off personally. Please, KEEP IT BRIEF (one or two sentences) so I can give them input from as many people as possible.
I'll be doing my best tonight to get these all read, printed, and handed off tomorrow.  Athletics and many other media sites feel this is a "vocal minority." I feel like the majority opinion is that folks don't like it but feel like the process is too far to change it back so we should get used to it.  If that's what you feel tell me. And for goodness sakes tell me to my face. Shouting it to me as I walk by won't really work cause I won't catch everything you said and also I'll just kinda feel like you're being kinda cranky.

The internet is only one part of a larger community.  If the majority of fans like this I would really like to know. However, I feel that is not the case, we're all just feelin' helpless to change.  And helpless isn't and emotion that settles well with me.  You know, what with the Unconquered spirit and all.

Thanks, Go Noles, and God save my inbox.

Friday, April 11, 2014

On the Spring Game and Who is Listening

The response from fans, students, alumni, and former athletes about the current logo situation has been huge.  To put it mildly. The blacklash against their force-fed design is in every nook and cranny of the Nole-ified interweb.  However, nobody was going to stop Athletics from rolling out their redesign by the Spring Game. They made it pretty clear they were going to marry this thing because, let's face it, they already paid for the wedding.  Their plan is clearly to wait this out, hoping we will eventually feel that this machine is too big to stop. I got mad and made my own alternative logo redesign (thank you for your responses, by the way), but it didn't feel like enough. What else could I do and what could I tell others who asked to help? 

The real question became how to express my distaste for the new logo at this weekend's Spring Game without looking like a total jerk.  It would feel weird to boo my University, but the alternative didn't sound much better: silently seething, gritting my teeth and thinking "if you could read my mind you would know I am, like, so mad at you right now."  I felt like I'd just end up walking around confused, smiling with my eyes and grimacing with my mouth, wondering what to do with my arms.

Then, through a conversation with someone about my last blog post, I learned some of the story behind this redesign. Let's just say it's kind of the worst, and it made me realize that I have to react in a public way.

Let's revisit that pesky Athletics statement from last Thursday:
"It is very important for you to know that the refinement we are making to our Seminole Head logo has been under development  for almost two years and that the Seminole Tribe of Florida along with groups representing our student-athletes, coaches, Boosters and university administration were consulted during the process."
Someone with EXTREMELY close ties to the Seminole Tribe of Florida spoke of the situation to me where the words "approval" and "consulted" as used by the University are not exactly...exact.  In fact, Athletics is the only one of the groups listed who has given an official response that I know of.  With that much ambiguity as to what these other groups, like the Seminole Tribe, actually feel about the logo change, there is a real possibility that representatives are waiting for a reaction-- a sustained reaction-- from alumni and fans.

FSU Athletics' definition of "subtle": now with burning
Our Athletic Department has shown us that they don't much care about the public's reaction or our tradition.  For God's sake, they burned our logo in their Ignition Tradition trailer.  But there are still players with a vested interest in this University who are listening.  It is very possible that representatives of the Tribe will be in attendance at the Spring game evaluating fan response.  They could want to know what we think. The Seminole Tribe could want to know what we think.  So, let them know (respectfully, of course). E-mails are a great start, but I now make sure I send them to places other than the official Athletics dump-box.  And at this game, an en masse reaction on social media, an impromptu protest...anything...just might get some important folks to take this back to the table.  Some folks might say this is cutting off our nose to spite our face, but have you seen that face?  Noseless might be an improvement.

A great place to start would be the Rally to save the Chief going on at 1pm Saturday at the Unconquered statue. [EDIT 9:56 AM: I've been told there is also a protest of Ignition Tradition tonight at 6:30pm in Kleman Plaza, downtown Tallahassee] Snap a picture of your gameday gear and tweet to #KeepThisChief or #FSULogoRebellionSign the growing petition at Change.org which, as of right now, has nearly 15,000 signatures. Listen to Macklemore or Twisted Sister or even Miley Cyrus on repeat if that's what gets you going. 

Important people are listening to our outcry. Very. Important. People.  So at the Spring Game on Saturday, express your discontent in whatever way you want: visually, vocally, interpretive dance...whatever. But DO IT BIG. Because our voices and our actions are being heard.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Behind the logo design: Interview on The Morning Show with Preston Scott

Wanna hear what my voice sounds like (and other fun things)?  Here is the audio from my visit to The Morning Show with Preston Scott on 100.7FM WFLA this past morning.  Preston and I talked about the behind the scenes of my version of the logo, how I see things going, and what this reaction might mean for FSU.  Spoiler alert: not great.

Audio: FSU Artist Proposes Subtle Logo Design

Friday, April 4, 2014

FSU Logo Redesign: An Artist, Staff Member, and Alumna's Solution

The announcement brewed for weeks that there would be a change to our beloved Seminole logo to consolidate that ever shifty "garnet" color and to make some subtle changes.

Not sure what FSU Athletics thinks subtle means, but what they gave us was not it.

I have a unique position to complain:  I have two degrees from this university, one in design. I currently work for the university as an illustrator, animator, and designer and have been happily employed here for three years, having graduated with my masters in illustration from Johns Hopkins University. I've been on this campus for eight of the past ten years of my life and, dadgummit, I deserve better than a cheesy, shoddy mishandling of my beloved Seminole.
I flamed on Facebook until my face was red, then said enough is enough.  I had no right to complain as an artist, designer, and alumna if I couldn't find a better solution.

This post presents my solution.

While I had such a visceral reaction to the new design, there were elements that I agreed with: the text on the feather has never been easy to read or replicate, the color "garnet" means anything from apple red to Virginia Tech maroon, and the war paint does have that bacon-y feel to it.  Which really, isn't the worst.  Because bacon is awesome.

Let me be perfectly clear: my opinion is that our current FSU athletic logo should not be changed at all.  However, seeing as how the powers-that-be are bent on revision and we already received a bungled redesign, the images below show my proposed updates to the logo.  I will try to be as transparent as possible in what I changed, because it's pretty darn annoying to expect subtle and get, well, you know.

A side by side comparison of the current logo and my proposed updates:
For those fans of Highlights Magazine, look away and find the differences in the image above.  For the cheat sheet as to what I changed, see below:
My goal is to address the concerns released in the FSU Athletics statement on Thursday while also maintaining the traditional face of Florida State. Their statement on the Seminole Head reads:
"The issue was that our Seminole Head, while as recognizable and iconic as any in all of sports, does not reproduce well in a number of mediums. It is particularly difficult to embroider and impossible to accurately represent on some materials including at midfield at Doak Campbell Stadium."
To me, this clearly meant the feather. There was little consistency as to whether it said "Florida State" or "State" or nothing at all.  Also, those little barbs always annoyed me when I tried to make the logo out of construction paper.  Cause, you know, dorm decorating contests.

Here is how my proposed update compares with the design leaked by Tomahawk Nation:

To quote the FSU Athletics letter again:
"We tasked Nike for help in refining the logo so that consistency can be achieved without diminishing the identity of the iconic image"
Yeah, you...did not succeed.  I'm not sure who at Nike illustrated this logo or whether they're an FSU alumnus.  Dollars to donuts they're not.  The identity of the face was lost entirely.  There's a story to that.  Many of us know it and love it and yes, we did notice you changed it. [Edit 4.4.14, 6:44PM The illustrator apparently did not use Tommy Wright as the original face reference.   He does admit though that the design migrated to a new profile since his original sketch (probably to incorporate Mr. Wright's striking features), I give full concept credit to the original illustrator, John Roberge, who worked in the FSU print shop in the early 1970's.]

The improved feather is nice and seems to be the exact one Nike used on the side of the men's basketball uniform redesign in the early 2000's.  However, it was lazily slapped on straight across the circle, completely ignoring the circular flow of the profile, hair, and outer border.  The designer seems to have kept it as straight and tall as a basketball player.  Have you seen them?  They're not circular at all.  I amended this by curving the same design to follow the circle, allowing only his hair to break the circular design element on the bottom left.

I also noticed the teeny tiny interlocking FSU logo in the headdress and promptly removed it.  Not sure what embroidery machine was going to get that on a polo (which is the reason we're changing this logo at all...right?), but it reeks of the same issues that the feather barbs had on the old design.

So, here it is, my take on this logo update business.

Use this logo idea or don't, there are a good number of other improved designs floating around the internet. But I strongly urge FSU Athletics to consider my critiques of the new logo as I come from the unique perspective of not only being a designer and artist, but an alumna of the University.  I know that I am not alone in my opinion that the new logo is unacceptable and that the old one didn't need to be changed anyway.  We feel deceived by FSU Athletics in a year where everything is supposed to be about celebrating a tradition of excellence, a National Championship year.  We're not looking for identity, I think we're pretty dadgum sure who we are as True Seminoles.