NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – “Determination.” “Confidence.” “Spirit.” “Pride.” “Sisterhood.” These descriptors consistently rose to the top when the Smith College community was asked to describe what makes Smith, its students, and its student-athletes unique. A new visual identity for Smith’s sports teams that captures these distinctive qualities will be released Dec. 11 in conjunction with the Smith Athletic Association’s annual Midnight Madness event celebrating the last day of fall-semester classes.
The upcoming announcement marks the culmination of a yearlong project to promote visibility and enthusiasm for Smith’s intercollegiate and club teams—and to generate school spirit broadly—by adopting a unifying visual identity or “spirit mark” for athletics uniforms, casual apparel and promotional items for clubs and organizations.
In the fall of 2007, a nine-member committee of students, faculty and staff engaged a strategic branding and design firm to research and develop design concepts for a potential new spirit mark. Among the concepts evaluated was the “Smith Pioneers,” the name under which teams have been competing since 1986 but for which no market testing had ever been conducted nor any accompanying visual symbol developed.
In multiple focus group sessions, interviews with coaches and key campus leaders— followed by an online survey with 1,400 responses—enthusiasm emerged for keeping the Pioneer name, which powerfully evokes Smith’s tradition of breaking barriers and opening new fields of opportunity for women.
“We are pioneers in so many ways. We were a college for women when the idea was outrageous, we played the first women’s basketball game, we have the first engineering program at a women’s college.”
“’Pioneers’ well defines the hard work and determination that is part of Smith. It goes well with both the academic and athletic sides of the college.”
“I was a ‘Pioneer’ when I was a student and am a pioneer as an alumna—athletically, professionally and personally.”
“We heard repeatedly that Smith students and athletes are independent, passionate, and leaders of change,” notes Maureen Scanlon ’86, vice president of Bidwell ID Strategic Branding and the principal consultant on the spirit mark project. “It’s clear that the path-breaking spirit that started with founder Sophia Smith continues to define the college and its students today.”
Mindful of the narrow visual associations that can be evoked by “pioneer,” Bidwell and the committee set out to develop an accompanying logo and type treatment consistent with Smith’s personality: a community that is edgy and feisty but not overly irreverent, an institution proud of its history, engaging the future with spirit, confidence and determination.
Students at the Athletic Association’s Dec. 11 Midnight Madness event in Scott Gym, which celebrates the last day of fall-semester classes, will have the first opportunity to see the new Pioneer spirit mark and receive free imprinted T-shirts and other items. At 11 p.m., exercise and sport studies professor Jane Stangl, a member of the committee, will introduce the new mark with a video displaying it in a range of sports contexts. Items carrying the new mark will be sold through Grécourt Book Shop, both at the event and going forward. Additionally, for two weeks after Midnight Madness, a selection will be available online as a fund raiser for Smith Athletics.
Director of Athletics Lynn Oberbillig sees the new mark as an exciting step in bringing the spirit of Smith athletics to a more central place in campus life. “Whether on the field or cheering from the sidelines, students are eager to show their support for their college and for each other.”
Noting that Smith was the first women’s college to join the NCAA, she sees the new mark as linking the college’s pioneering alumnae athletes to their equally determined and competitive counterparts today.
Oberbillig expects the new mark will be used in all new uniforms, as well as on warm-up gear and fund raising items sold by teams and clubs.
Student Government Association (SGA) President Marlowe Dieckmann ’09 is eager to share the mark with students across the campus and to see it in action as a symbol of unity and campus pride. “This is an opportunity for us to embrace the Pioneer identity,” she said, “and to rally behind its representation of Smithies as remarkable, motivated and ground breaking women.”
Stangl, who served on the spirit mark committee, predicts that the mark that will be introduced on Dec. 11 will “re-energize the Smith community and the place of women’s athletics at this pioneering institution.
“As someone who has studied and written about institutions that have changed their names, their images or logos,” Stangl said, “it was a privilege to be a part of this process. All colleges and institutions pledge their uniqueness in endeavors like this, but the consultants and the committee really listened and took into account the multiple constituencies invested in developing an iconic representation for Smith’s students and student-athletes.”
Smith is a Division III member of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). It was a founding member of the New England Women’s 6 conference, now known as NEWMAC. Smith competes in14 Division III varsity sports and extensive intramural and club sport programs.
The spirit mark committee was comprised of: Emily Taylor ’08, past president of the SGA; Caitlyn Colman-McGaw ’08, past president of the Athletic Association; Amanda Taus ’09; Marlowe Dieckmann ’09, SGA president; Lynn Oberbillig, director of athletics; Carole Grills, sports information director; Jane Stangl, lecturer, Exercise and Sport Studies Department; Laurie Fenlason, executive director of public affairs (chair); John Eue, senior director of publications and communications, College Relations; and Carole Fuller, director of strategic marketing, College Relations.