PULLMAN, Wash. — What goes around, comes around.
Spokane resident Randall Johnson, designer of the distinctive Cougar head logo used to
identify Washington State University and its athletic teams, was recognized by the WSU Alumni
Association Friday during its annual spring board of directors meeting in the Lewis Alumni
Centre. The 1938 fine arts graduate received a new issue of the official WSU class ring bearing
the logo he designed when he was a student at what was then Washington State College in 1936.
The original logo incorporated the letters W, S and C in the shape of a snarling cougar, the
school mascot. When Washington State became a university in 1959, Johnson redesigned the
“C” in the cougar’s jaw to a “U.”
“We thought it fitting to honor Randall for developing the logo concept that has played a
vital role in the identification of Washington State for more than 60 years now,” said Keith
Lincoln, executive director of the alumni association.
While a student at Washington State, Johnson was employed as a sign painter on the
campus. His boss, Fred G. Rounds, superintendent of buildings and grounds, made sure that the
official designation “State College of Washington” was included on campus signs, vehicles and
other college property. He asked Johnson to come up with something shorter and less
cumbersome to convey the same message in a more attractive style. Within an hour of the
request, Johnson presented his boss with the now famous Cougar head symbol.
The sketch was approved by Rounds, who presented the drawing to the college
administration, and the logo was made official.
The first public display of the new design appeared on the door of a campus truck. Not long
afterwards, Johnson climbed a 40-foot ladder and painted three, 6-foot diameter symbols over the
entrances to the then new south grandstands of Roger Field, now Martin Stadium.
After completing his degree in fine arts, Johnson went on to become advertising director for
the Washington Water Power Company in Spokane, a position he held for 38 years, with time out
for military service during World War II. He retired in 1978.
Johnson received WSU’s Alumni Achievement Award in 1979. In 1992, the WSU Alumni
Association and the Spokane Cougar Club endowed a scholarship at WSU in Johnson’s name.