Every section of Clemson’s national championship mark has meaning.
The stripes at the top came from the crown of Clemson’s helmet. The tapered border at the shoulder is shaped after the pedestal that holds Howard’s Rock. It goes on and on through the logo, which now adorns every piece of Clemson championship gear.
“Let’s use our own people,” Tim Match, Clemson’s associate athletic director for external affairs, said when it came time to select a designer.
So back in November when the school started planning for a championship mark, Match went to Jeff Kallin, an associate director in communications and Clemson’s lead graphic designer, and told him to begin working on some designs. Kallin is a Clemson graduate who went to work in the athletic communications office at his alma mater and became one of the critical pieces of the Tigers’ acclaimed social media team.
But Kallin’s story goes much deeper than the orange blood running through his veins. He’s completely self-taught as a designer. He never took a design class in college and it wasn’t until the last few years that the 31-year-old could have imagined making Clemson history.
“I had no formal training at all, just a lot of trial and error,” said Kallin, who was the equipment manager for ex-coach Oliver Purnell’s Clemson basketball teams when he was a student. “Once I knew I wanted to work in communications, I watched a lot of tutorials on design and taught myself.”
Kallin, whose undergraduate degree came in parks, recreation and tourism management with an emphasis on sport management, can find his design work throughout the athletic department and on Clemson’s social media channels. He became so well-regarded that the school asked him to teach a class on digital media design in the college of business.
The two palm trees represent the Tigers’ two national championships, both won in Florida — Miami after the 1981 season and Tampa this past season.
It was mid-November when Kallin took the directive from Match and started thinking about a championship mark. He already had a lot on his mind. Weeks earlier, he and his wife had their first baby.
Kallin began by studying championship gear from previous seasons, looking at college teams as well as NFL and NBA teams that had won titles. He also searched for distinctive images, like Clemson’s helmet. Unlike most schools that wear multiple helmets of varying colors, Clemson has just one helmet. The orange, purple and white stripes are uniquely Clemson.
Over the next month, Kallin created more than 40 designs using Adobe Illustrator, a graphic design software. Each of them went through a review process that included the highest level of senior officials in the athletic department, including AD Dan Radakovich.
|Jeff Kallin (right) works with Clemson students in a graphic design workshop.
They whittled it to five, then two and by mid-December, down to one, which was submitted to Collegiate Licensing Co., the school’s licensing agent. CLC asks for three to four weeks of lead time for special marks like this.
There were three different color variations of the last logo before the group made a final choice.
The one thing the logo didn’t have was an image of iconic Howard’s Rock, the football team’s good luck charm that each player rubs before running down the hill and onto the field. There just wasn’t a fit for it, although the pedestal is represented.
“I wanted to make sure the mark would be deeply personal for Clemson fans who would understand its meaning,” Kallin said. “I wanted it to be special to them.”
The words “National Champions” are printed in what the school calls its distinctive paw hammer font, a proprietary font created for the athletic department in 2013 during a rebranding initiative.
While Kallin worked on a new mark, Match informed CLC that the school would create its own championship mark. Sometimes schools use the designers at CLC, and sometimes they use an outside design and branding firm. CLC officials made it clear that they welcome their client schools to submit their own work.
“It’s not entirely unique for a school to do its own mark,” said Cory Moss, managing director for CLC, a WME-IMG company. CLC began working with schools to create unique national championship logos in 1998 when Tennessee’s football team won it all.
“The most important thing about a championship mark is to make sure it’s something the institution, the licensees, the sponsors, the marketing teams can all get behind and have one brand,” Moss said. “Clemson made sure everybody was in the loop and the mark has become a theme for every extension of the university.”
The previous season, when Clemson lost in the championship game to Alabama, the Tigers commissioned CLC’s designers to create a national championship mark, one that obviously never made it to the printer. It looked fine, officials said, but some thought it felt like a template. There was nothing about it that uniquely reflected Clemson.
“When you keep everything internal, you have more control over fonts and colors,” Kallin said.
The new mark mostly appears on clothing items for now, but in the future it could be used on any type of gear, ranging from cups to parking passes and tickets. The mark also serves as the avatar for the Clemson football Twitter account @ClemsonFB.
Kallin went with a shield design just for that purpose, to make it as flexible and easy to use as possible.
“We have a different story here and we want to tell it,” Match said when explaining why they wanted to keep the design in-house. “It felt like the right thing to do to have a Clemson graduate, someone out of our shop, create the graphic.”
The orange semi-circle with 2016 in it is supposed to look like a rising sun, indicative of a Clemson football program on the rise. The bottom of the mark is intended to be an inverted pyramid, which has meaning because the players sign a block after each win and the block is added to a pyramid. If the Tigers complete the pyramid, they will have won the national championship.