UND unveils new logo to pair with Fighting Hawks nickname

GRAND FORKS -- Following months of discussions about the image and years of controversy over the University of North Dakota's previous nickname, the university unveiled its Fighting Hawks logo Wednesday.


GRAND FORKS -- Following months of discussions about the image and years of controversy over the University of North Dakota’s previous nickname, the university unveiled its Fighting Hawks logo Wednesday.

Calling its debut “a historic moment,” Interim UND President Ed Schafer revealed the logo to a crowd of UND supporters at a news conference inside the school’s High Performance Center.  

The new graphic identity features “a determined hawk embedded in a Kelly green ND,” along with a distinctive wordmark stating “North Dakota Fighting Hawks,” Schafer said.

The eye’s of the hawk shows a determined look of perseverance, Schafer added, with the feather of the hawk flowing through the letters “ND” to show the graceful movement of the hawk in the air as it soars.

“By incorporating ND into the logo, we now have a logo that says North Dakota,” Schafer said.


Since the Fighting Sioux name was retired in 2012, the school’s athletics teams have used an interlocking “ND” logo.

UND adopted the new Fighting Hawks nickname in November after three rounds of voting among the school’s stakeholders. The Fighting Hawks nickname replaced UND’s longtime Fighting Sioux name, retired after years of debate over its reference to Native American history.

SME Inc., a New York-based design firm, created the Fighting Hawks logo. The company has previously developed branding plans and logos for the New York Yankees, Minnesota Wild, Tampa Bay Lighting, Miami Dolphins, the Pac-12 athletic conference, the Big Sky athletic conference and more than 25 universities.

Bennett Brien, the creator of the Fighting Sioux logo, met with the design team and provided input, but said the team didn’t follow his advice.

“If I had a shot at it, I would’ve basically metamorphosed the Indian head into a hawk,” Brien said. “I don’t know how. It would have took a lot of sketches and changes I’m sure.”

In the end, Brien said he knows the passion that UND fans have for his design won’t disappear with the implementation of the new logo.

“We’ll see what happens I guess,” Brien said. “I imagine they’ll still be wearing the Fighting Sioux logo at all the hockey games. They aren’t going to give that up, that’s for darn sure.”

That continuing passion also is recognized by the officials with the UND Alumni Association and Foundation.


The logo’s reveal allows the school to move on, CEO DeAnna Carlson Zink said, but she acknowledges everyone won’t move forward at the same pace or forget the school’s former nickname and logo.

“We fully realized that nobody is going to stop fans from wearing their Sioux jerseys to the game,” she said. “I think that will always be a part of who we are. It’s a way of respecting history and that tradition. I think as we move forward now, you will see more of the Fighting Hawks logo.”

Hatching the Hawk

To develop the logo, SME Inc. began with research by spending time on campus and around Grand Forks to understand and learn the UND brand, said Conor O’Flaherty, SME director of brand strategy and development.

Along with this, the company spoke with UND stakeholders and hosted a townhall meeting in Grand Forks. There, the company began to understand what the UND brand could be and synthesized that down to where they might take the image, O’Flaherty said.

“For us, this was a tough one because we knew this was unique,” O’Flaherty said. “This was unlike anything we’d ever done in terms of replacing something that was so beloved in the region. Doing that while essentially having the state looking on, we understood the importance of it. We understood the pressure of this. We know this is a really big identity and we wanted to do a great job.”

Following exchanges with UND’s leadership, logo options were narrowed to two designs, which were put before a focus group. A final logo design was chosenby Schafer, tweaked and then presented to the public Wednesday.


The full cost of the logo drafting is $49,500, Schafer said, and will include multiple iterations of the logo, custom font and a brand usage guide.

The logo was designed to be “future-looking” and represent the entire state of North Dakota, O’Flaherty said.

“Yes, we’re the Fighting Hawks, but we’re North Dakota,” he said. “And we used that to create the negative space in the ND. That all stems from the idea that this hawk is the heart of North Dakota just like UND is the heart of North Dakota.”

After its unveiling, Schafer told the Herald he hopes people embrace the logo, but he realizes at this point the name and image mean little to the university and its history.

“The reality is the name today and the logo we put up there, it doesn’t really have any value to it, it doesn’t mean anything,” Schafer said. “As we win, as our teams win, as we send out students that are engaged and capable, as we continue to perform in our focus of excellence, and as we build that value, that’s what our heritage means, that’s what our character is. That’s when it means something - not today.”


As the school moves forward, perhaps the mostly visible display of the new logo will be on the jerseys of UND athletes.

Athletics Director Brian Faison and Football Head Coach Bubba Schweigert also spoke at the unveiling, outlining their respective steps forward concerning the logo.

“UND football is going to embrace this logo and what it represents,” said an emotional Schweigert, adding the logo will be on the helmet for the team’s first game Sept. 1.

UND will begin using the new logo immediately, Faison said. However, it will take time to transition it onto team uniforms, because many have already been ordered for the next season, he said.

It is expected football and basketball teams will use the logo in some fashion this upcoming year, but hockey will continue to use the interlocking ND for the 2016-17 season because those uniforms were ordered this past winter, Faison said.

The logo will be implemented immediately in UND-controlled print and digital media and the university will work with the facilities to determine what they can and cannot change, Faison said.

Jody Hodgson, general manager at the Ralph Engelstad Arena, said there are hundreds of situations he and arena staff need to evaluate as to how the logo will be incorporated at The Ralph, and many of those decisions have not been made yet.

“It’s hard to make a blanket statement that covers all of the different situations,” Hodgson said. “There’s hundreds and hundreds of ways we incorporate the name, the mark, the logo in our game presentation and everything else so we’ve got to work through the list to figure it out.”

When the school transitioned away from the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo in 2012, some items at the arena changed, such as game presentation elements, video board message and public address announcements. Hodgson said he doesn’t see making any changes to items that remained unchanged following the 2012 transition, meaning the Sioux logos currently displayed will likely remain.

The north wall decals at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center will be updated depending on price, while other facilities, such as the Alerus Center, will not see any change at this time.

It will also take time for merchandise with the new logo to be available, but UND is planning an Aug. 13 event to launch products depicting the logo.

Schafer said going from a blank piece of paper to having the logo revealed Wednesday was a massive project. The final logo came to be after committees gathering information and explored what people wanted from a logo, what North Dakota stands for, what UND stands for and what the old logo means to people, among other things.

“I like the new logo,” Schafer said. “I’m excited about it. I think we have the elements of the Fighting Hawk, and importantly, UND, and more importantly North Dakota. Those were the three things that I wanted to see in the logo and that I wanted to have. I'm excited about how it turned out, and I think it’s going to make a statement about who we are and where we’re going.”

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