Wake Forest Demon Deacons Rebrand Exploration
While it seems like many professional sports teams update their logos and branding every decade or so, collegiate sports team brands have not been so quick to evolve. University mascots are especially prone to stagnation, and Wake Forest University is no exception. Wake Forest’s brand has developed over the past 90 years from an eclectic set of brand marks that have become classic among Wake Forest fans. The current brand, however, has become a bit cartoony, and lacks the dignity and foundation of earlier designs. It’s time to dig deep into Wake Forest’s history and culture to create a respectable brand that is both nostalgic and progressive.
“The Old Gold & Black”
Founded in 1834 in by the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, Wake Forest University is one of the oldest institutions of higher learning in the state. As early as 1895, Wake Forest had adopted a tiger as its athletic mascot and gold and black as its school colors. By the 1920’s, the tiger mascot had faded away but the distinctive colors continued to be associated with the college. Wake Forest athletics became more widely known as “The Baptists,” or simply “The Old Gold and Black.”
The first few decades of the 20th century were particularly rough for Wake Forest athletic squads, but in 1923, the Wake Forest football team defeated rival Trinity (later renamed to Duke University). In the following issue of the school newspaper, the editor of the paper, Mayon Parker, first referred to the team as the “Demon Deacons,” in recognition of what he called their “devilish” play and fighting spirit. Popularity of the term began to grow, and by 1941, the actual Demon Deacon mascot made its first appearance. Jack Baldwin was the original student Deacon mascot, the first in a long line of entertainers to lead the school’s teams into action.
Some of my fraternity brothers and I were just sitting around one evening and came to the agreement that what Wake Forest needed was someone dressed like a deacon—top hat, tails, a black umbrella and all that. We wanted him to be more dignified than other mascots, sort of like an old Baptist Deacon would dress.
The New Old Gold & Black
WF Primary Mark
Wake Forest’s WF primary mark is one of the most iconic and recognized in collegiate sports. One of the challenges Astronaut faced was to create a mark that incorporated the classic elements of the WF primary mark, while addressing a few of the issues where the current primary falls short.
Special care has been taken in selecting a typeface that would best pay homage to the current primary mark. Slab serifs provide a sense of history and elegance, while the width of the character elements and spacing between openings lends a modern-but-timeless quality. The W and F have been joined together into a single, cohesive unit. The new WF primary mark is slightly wider and heavier than the existing primary mark, providing greater legibility at smaller sizes.
Deacon Head Logo
Over the years, the Deacon Head logo has gone through several iterations, some better than others. Each version—including the current one—has been hand drawn. While the rough sketches of the Deacon Head may have some charm, they lack the quality and sophistication that results from a formal, professional exploration of the brand.
We aimed to evolve the attitude and competitive nature of the team without compromising the existing character of the brand. Rather than creating something so new that it would risk alienating the team’s loyal fan base, we stuck to the essential ingredients of the Demon Deacon’s identity: a gold and black color palette, and a profile of the Demon Deacon – complete with a top hat, mutton chops, and sneer.
The current Deacon Head maintains the classic top hat and hair style of the vintage versions, but eschews a few of the dignified details in favor of a more cartoony appearance. Our design approach was to harken back to the vintage logos, attempting to bring the Deacon Head back to its human origins while keeping it clean and modern. A collar has been re-added, which introduces more gold back into the logo, all while creating a sense of heritage and dignity. Skin tones have been adjusted to remove the yellow tint and to bring it more in line with the gold tones in the logo and wordmark.
The versatility of the Wake Forest branding creates a limitless canvas for uniform design concepts. Staying true to the Old Gold & Black color palette, Astronaut has produced three concept uniforms that will make Wake Forest the envy of the ACC.
The gold primary helmet and black secondary helmets honor the original look of the Demon Deacons, staying true to the original color combinations. The gold primary helmet contains a black keyline and a fierce, black facemask. The black secondary helmet features a brilliant gold facemask. Both helmets are adorned with the the new WF primary mark.
The football uniform visuals were crafted to be sleek and aggressive, pulling together elements that not only turn heads, but have significance to Wake Forest fans and alumni. The sleeves feature a modified version of the Wake Forest academic crest, which is recognizably significant to both Wake Forest alumni and fans. Pants feature the WF primary mark on the hip. Modern numbers round out the design.
The home uniforms feature the perfect blend of black and gold. The sleeves feature a gold crest, and gold side panel venting decorate the jersey. Black socks and gold shoes round out this strong uniform identity.
Travel uniforms were crafted according to the white jersey tradition, and feature the same pieces that make the home uniform so handsome. The gold decoration really stands out against the white background, with hints of black accented throughout.
The all-black Screamin’ Demon Edition uniforms are sure to be a fan favorite for important home night games. Fabric patterns on the sleeve decorations and jersey vent panels provide variations in color under the bright stadium lights. These sinister uniforms provide the team extra edge and motivation when it is really needed.