Last summer, Interim President Dr. John Plotts and the University of Dallas presidential cabinet retired the “tower and flame” logo in favor of the traditional seal. This decision was largely based on the need for greater unity in our time of presidential transition and on administration’s perception that the UD community had never fully accepted the logo.
While the seal was formerly reserved for purposes such as diplomas or presidential announcements, a UD Marketing and Communications online announcement stated that now the seal “will be used more broadly in both internal and external communications than in recent years.”
Cliff Smith, executive director of UD marketing, said that UD’s year of transition was a major consideration in the decision to move away from the tower and flame logo in favor of the traditional seal.
Smith also feels that the logo “was never fully embraced as a symbol reflective of what UD is,” which is an especially important consideration as UD’s image is revisited in this time of change.
Students often colloquially referred to the logo as “the flaming cupcake,” and Smith said that these and similar attitudes contributed to the administration’s decision to retire the logo. As UD did not seem to enthusiastically embrace the logo, administration and the marketing department did not feel that the alteration of these perceptions was worth the effort.
“It seemed like this was the best time to allow the flame and tower logo to just pass away,” Smith said.
Since the traditional seal is more widely-respected, Smith said that the decision was made in “recognition of the sense that the community, both alumni and current students and faculty, really appreciate the seal and its symbolism and meaning.”
“At least for this period of time, we don’t necessarily need to create a new symbol, we don’t need to confuse things, so we can start using our seal in more visible ways to say, ‘this represents who we are,’” Smith said.
“Dr. Plotts has been really good about putting forth the need to come together around things that unite us, so that we can do some institutional self-reflection and prepare to move forward with the new president,” Smith added. “The decision, at least for now, to not produce any more material with the logo will help us hopefully create a symbol to offer our community in a time of transition and uncertainty.”
Plotts confirmed that he made this decision in order to unify the UD community.
“It was based on my experience over the last 10 years at UD that the seal best reflects the ethos of our community,” Plotts wrote. “There was also a sense, I believe, that the seal was preferred by the majority of the community and it was my hope that during this year of transition we could focus on topics [and] symbols that unify us rather than divide us.”
This type of transition in our university logos is not uncommon, according to archivist Shelley Gayler-Smith. One such past logo from the 1958-1959 yearbook includes the U and D letters alongside the Crusader knight. Another memorable publication for the 1972-1973 school year featured a stylized trinitarian symbol in a rainbow gradient.
“These logos tend to fluctuate and they often depend on the presidency, because the symbol is associated with that presidency and the tone they’re trying to set,” Gayler-Smith said.
However, the traditional seal has been a near constant for UD.
“The seal has been here within the first few years of the university’s formation,” Gayler-Smith said.
Although the exact date of the seal’s commission is unknown, the earliest form of the seal currently available appears in a publication from 1958.
“There are various images of the seal in various forms, both official and unofficial, that have been used throughout UD’s history,” Gayler-Smith added.
Unanswered questions include how the more intricate seal will be implemented for marketing and production purposes. However, this decision marks a step forward in unifying UD during this time of transition.
“So much of our broader culture is about what divides us, and I think that our seal gives us a place around which we can come together,” Smith said.