The Billiken: A new logo for and of (some of) the people

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There’s a new Billiken logo coming our way. No, really. Hadn’t heard about this? You’re not alone.

On Nov. 1, the University announced — in a Newslink press release, that after more than 20 years of the same winking, bulbous face, the beloved Billiken will be getting a makeover, as will the SLU fleur-de-lis. The final designs will be unveiled at a special event at Chaifetz Arena on Friday, Nov. 13 at 4 p.m. Wait, the final designs? The decision has already been made? And unveiled on Friday the 13th?

That’s right. The more-than-18-month process of reviewing and updating both logos is coming to a close in just eight days. There is no mention of how drastic the change might be. Will the Billiken still wink? Will it still smile like The Grinch? Will its hair still look like Droopy’s, after a bad haircut? More importantly, how many students knew anything about this before Monday’s Newslink, assuming you even read it then?

In the press release, Chris May, SLU’s director of athletics, said that the new “brand identity system” was created “with the help of SLU students, Billiken student-athletes, faculty, staff and athletic program supporters.” The article later notes that the logos were “shared with key groups” of the SLU community.

We wonder: Which “key groups” were consulted, exactly? Who were the students entrusted with the future of the Billiken logo?

In an email to The University News, SGA President Jay Bryant explained that the logo was first debuted at the final President’s Advisory Council (PAC) meeting of the 2014-2015 academic year. The entire SGA Executive Board attends PAC meetings, as do the Faculty Senate Executive Committee, the chairs of each college or school faculty council, Staff Advisory Committee representatives, deans, vice presidents and representatives from SLUCare and SLU’s Madrid Campus. Those who attended the meeting offered feedback on the new logos, and designers continued to work on the final products over the summer.

Laura Geiser, SLU’s Assistant Vice President for Marketing and Creative Services, detailed the University’s rebranding process in a lengthy email to The UNews.

SLU hired PulsePoint Group to conduct a marketing review of SLU, approximately 18 months ago. In November 2014, Olson, PulsePoint’s prize-winning parent group, visited campus to conduct interviews with various campus representatives. Logo options were then shared with various SLU-branding committees and then to the attendees of the spring PAC meeting. Over this past summer, the logos were also shared with student-athletes, SLU 101 leaders, admissions ambassadors and the Athletics donor group, among others.

“We have followed a collaborative process that has involved more than 150 stakeholders,” Geiser told The University News.

In layperson’s terms, this means that approximately 150 people were responsible for selecting the rebranded logos that will be unveiled on Nov. 13, one week from tomorrow.

According to the Saint Louis University 2015 Profile, SLU has a total enrollment topping 13,000, for the 2015-2016 academic year. That’s 13,000 students who will be affected by this change in the Billiken logo. Toss in the more than 6,000 total employees, and SLU has close to 20,000 active members in its community. And that does not take any alumni into account.

Essentially, SLU determined its new logos based on input from a fraction of one percent of its active community. Could the percentage have been bumped a bit?

When a change like this happens only every couple of decades, shouldn’t the entire student body have more of a say? We wear the apparel; we go to sporting events; we have a vested interest in our mascot — even if we will only attend SLU for a few years.

How difficult would it have been to set up an online poll to give students a chance to express preference for one logo over another? That’s how students elect SGA representatives and hall council members. Surely there were multiple logos from which to choose, at some point in the process. Why not put it to a vote? Even if the students don’t get the final say on which logo will represent our school, there is value in getting input from more than a handful of people.

SLU is very protective of its image. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but when it gets in the way of connecting with students, it could become a problem. Allowing students to vote on the next Billiken logo would have promoted camaraderie within the SLU community. And it might have helped bring our coaches and athletes, who often feel separate from the rest of the school community, closer to the general student body.

Alas, the University decided that a less-transparent process was apropos, in deciding on a new Billiken logo. There’s a good chance (and we genuinely hope) that everyone will be happy with the new logo. And people may forget that they most of us weren’t given a vote in the matter. But that doesn’t mean that the University shouldn’t have given us the opportunity to make our voices heard.

And we’re betting that the god of things as they ought to be would agree.