Way Back at Mac: reminiscing on logo lingo


Katrin O'Grady

To quote Taylor Swift, the old Macalester logo is indeed deceased. The gear and gadgets at the Highlander, the banners on the flagpoles and even humble Macalester pens welcomed students back to campus sporting a new, sleek and cohesive Macalester brand. Clearly, Macalester has received a blue-and-white facelift, shedding its red and white, its purple, its piper and its global orange peel (though there is a new orange peel design with our new colors). Perhaps everyone is ready to embrace the change — new year, new colors, new logo (new you?). However, if you are still in a stage of grief, I encourage you to relish the following historical testimonial, giving our antecedent emblems one last time to shine, in a proper tribute to their former glories.

The original Macalester blue and orange goes way back. In fact, the color combo predates The Mac Weekly. In the April 1894 edition of the College Echo, the oratorical team encouraged students to support them in the state contest by attending the contest in “peacock-blue and orange.” However, there appears to be a bit of colorful controversy. In the November 1908 issue of the Macalester College Bulletin, Blanche Mowat, Class of 1910, wrote a letter to the editor complaining, “Macalester colors do not harmonize with each other, do not lend themselves readily to decoration [and] cannot be worn by either men or women effectively.” Describing the shade of azure as a “combination of shades [that’s] impossible to harmonize,” Mowat gave our historic colors a vigorous thumbs-down.

Still, others were vehemently attached to the blue and orange. In the 1920s, there was discussion about whether the college’s second color was orange or gold. A March 16, 1923 article of The Mac Weekly argues that “Orange and Blue is a distinctive color. The result is a far better combination than the universal Gold and Blue, which carries with it no distinction.”

From my search, it’s unclear as to exactly where the red and white colors originated. The November 1890 College Echo mentions how classes used to pick class colors. That year the class colors ranged from black and lavender to shrimp pink and sea green to red and white, which were the colors of the junior class. It seems as though those colors stuck as later classes in the 20th century used red and white as their class colors. These colors were used to decorate for big class celebrations as opposed to the peacock-blue and orange. It’s possible that these colors began to stick throughout the years until the red was finally used for the shield logo.

In terms of logos, Macalester’s founder, Reverend Edward Neill, created the original circular seal. It depicts two female figures representing academic and moral pursuits and reads in Latin “Natura et Revelatio Coeli Gemini” (Nature and Revelation are twin sisters in Heaven). This logo is now extremely uncommon to see out and about on campus. In 1998, Macalester underwent a similar logo change as in 2017. The college began using the now familiar shield to emphasize Macalester’s Scottish roots which they believed would “demonstrate the college’s general commitment to diversity and internationalism.” Despite the introduction of the tartan shield, Macalester continued to use the piper in addition to a simple maple leaf on admissions paraphernalia. Evidently, this change did little to form a singular Macalester brand; however, in 1998, that didn’t seem to be the main objective. A Macalester brand was certainly on the brain though, as the 15 February, 2002 edition of The Mac Weekly noted, “The college is still attempting to develop a ‘Macalester brand,’ an identity to use to market the school and a task force has been created to discuss the specifics of a college brand.”

Even if you weren’t quite ready for the disappearance of the piper, the purple or the red and white, it seems as though our 2017 change was a long time coming. 143 years after its founding Macalester now boasts a single logo with a sole font and color scheme. Whether or not you appreciated the confusion of having numerous emblems and the complexities of three distinct college color schemes, Macalester does have a rich symbolic history.