PULLMAN, Wash. — Washington State University has created a new graphic identity by updating a logo that has its roots in the 1930s.
Unveiled in Spokane on Nov. 17 during a meeting of the WSU Board of Regents, the new crimson and gray on white logo is a variation of the famous Cougar head logo designed in 1936 by Washington State College student Randall Johnson. The new logo employs the Cougar head within a crest, an internationally recognized symbol for higher education.
V. Lane Rawlins, who took office as WSU’s ninth president in June, asked for a new university logo treatment to replace the stylized “W” which has been in use since 1988. He said the new logo “represents both the proud tradition and success of Washington State University and the opportunities and high expectations for progress in the future for a great institution.”
Said Rawlins, “I’m delighted with this representation of the university. The fact that it has a connection to the past, yet vibrantly represents the future, makes it even stronger.”
Johnson, 85, designed the original logo in July 1936 at the request of Fred G. Rounds, WSC architect and Building and Grounds director. “He authorized me to see what I could think up, maybe incorporating the Cougar head shape,” said Johnson. He used the letters W, S and C to form a Cougar head. Once approved by the college administration, its first use was when it was painted on the door of a new college truck. In 1959, when the college became a university, he revised the logo at the request of President C. Clement French. The “C” on the logo became a “U.”
Prior to the unveiling, Johnson was honored by the regents with a resolution of appreciation for his original work on the logo and support of the university over the years.
Johnson, who says he is “proud to be a Cougar,” is a native of Washington’s Whitman County. He was born March 2, 1915, in LaCrosse and raised there and in Washtucna, Walla Walla and Pullman. He is a 1933 Pullman High School graduate. He earned his WSU fine arts degree in 1938.
The former head of advertising for Washington Water Power, he and his wife, Jeanne, a 1941 WSU graduate, have lived in Spokane since 1940.
He is the recipient of a variety of honors, including a WSU Alumni Achievement Award. There is a scholarship in his name, endowed by the WSU Alumni Association and the Spokane Cougar Club. The Johnsons are WSU Benefactors.
In 1959, Johnson signed over creative rights for the Cougar head logo to the university. As a result, WSU has earned millions of dollars from licensing it for various uses.
Use of the new WSU logo, on everything from letterhead to business cards and signs, will be phased in over the next year, said university officials.
WSU Athletics and the university’s Alumni Association will continue to use the Cougar head logo without the crest. And, the state of Washington WSU vehicle license plate featuring the Cougar head will continue to be sold. The annual fee for those using the plate funds WSU student scholarships.