By Bob Dickson & Michael Crawford
Last May, at the final student chapel of the academic year, The Master’s College unveiled its new logo – the bust of a stately looking horse staring resolutely over the word, “Master’s.”
The lettering was new, the horse was unique, the entire feel was transformed.
The moment was punctuated by a school-wide give-away of t-shirts bearing the new image. The student body of roughly 1,000 young men and women along with all faculty and staff left chapel that day carrying the college’s new look into their respective communities.
For TMC Director of Marketing Kirk Linahan and Director of Athletics Steve Waldeck, the unveiling marked the end of an arduous process that took months and involved members of the TMC community at just about every level.
There were many reasons to create the new logo, but the driving force behind the change was the college’s need to distinguish the logo and the look from other schools.
“Whenever I saw the ‘M’ [in Master’s], I saw it as the Michigan University ‘M,’ Linahan said. “That ‘M’ is so well known. It was hard to distinguish it from ours. In focus groups, even our own students would see it and default to Michigan. What really started the ball rolling though, was when Steve Waldeck was approached by a friend from another school who said the horse in our logo looked just like theirs. Our logo wasn’t distinct.”
And so in August of 2013, Linahan and Waldeck got approval from TMC leadership to begin pursuing a new look. They anticipated an involved process, but it became much more involved than even they had envisioned.
Linahan began by hiring Kaya Design, a graphic design company that specializes in logo design, to walk them though the process. What the college wanted, in addition to something fresh and distinct, revolved around the image of the horse.
“There are a lot of horses on logos out there,” Linahan said. “We wanted ours to indicate something about us. We wanted people to see the logo and say, ‘That’s Master’s.’ It needed to be true to who we are.”
Jim Rickard, who has coached TMC’s men’s soccer team for 23 years, put it this way:
“The design of the new logo came from the hopes to create a strong, regal horse that didn’t look evil or angry. We wanted to couple this with a quality font work that represents The Master’s College Athletics Department well and incorporate our official school colors.”
Creating a horse that is strong and regal, yet not evil or angry looking proved to be a challenge. Linahan said they wanted the horse to say, ‘Don’t mess with me’ without saying, ‘I’m going to crush you.’
“We’re not the Mustang Devils,” he said.
Kaya Design presented many options, each careful to avoid the clichéd images of smoke-fuming nostrils and “angry eyes.”
“John Kaya literally hand drew the horse,” Linahan said. “So it’s a totally unique logo. It’s ours.”
One of Kaya’s goals was for the horse’s mane to give the impression of movement, something that’s clear in the final rendition.
In addition to the horse, Kaya worked on several variations of the lettering of “The Master’s College” and specifically the ‘M.’ Initially, the ‘M’ carried a more western feel – something to tie it in to the Mustang and the school’s location and history.
In the focus groups that followed, however, coaches and students agreed that it didn’t quite work. So Kaya came back a more modern looking set of letters.
“The ‘M’ is often by itself, so it’s an important piece,” Linahan said. “In the end we decided to go with a western font that is slightly more contemporary than historical.”
In the end, the team arrived at its goal: a completely fresh and original logo.
“Over the past couple of decades, our logo and brand has only had minor tweaks,” Waldeck said. “It’s commonplace in collegiate athletics for images to be updated, and when appropriate, for the brand to be overhauled. The timing was right for us to make a wholesale change in our brand and develop something uniquely Master’s.”
Linahan admits that there was a bit of breath holding during the unveiling, despite the group’s confidence in what they had created.
“I knew we had a good logo,” he said. "But there’s always that fear that when you unveil it people won’t like it.”
The response, however, has been positive.
Senior basketball player Korey Anderson:
“It’s original! I feel like the previous logo wasn’t advertised much on the campus, but this has already shown up all over the place on t-shirts. It’s distinguished.”
Junior women’s basketball player Sydney Emory:
“It’s elegant. It’s unique to us and will be really cool to have on our uniforms this next semester. I like it a lot!”
Sophomore women’s soccer player McKinely Kane:
“I feel that this well help unify our teams and student-athletes and make us here at The Master’s College a tighter-knit group. I also think it’s a lot more defined as a logo that people look at and know immediately that we’re Mustangs. It represents the school well and shows that we have a strong athletics department. I think it will define what we stand for…whether it is competing for Christ on the field or just unifying our school in the community. It’ll be really fun as we now share the logo. Now, students will have a really great logo to wear at our sporting events!”
Linahan says that ultimately, the logo’s effectiveness will be measured by those who wear it.
“If the students don’t like it, they don’t wear it,” he said. “The students have been wearing it. I’ve seen it a lot. So that’s a validation. We are happy with the look and the students are responding. The process did what it was supposed to do, and we have a logo that’s unique, one that captures who we are as a college.”