What’s in a Name?

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The Wikipedia entry says it right there: John Jay High School is a public high school located in Cross River, New York. It is the only high school in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District. The school, which opened in 1956, is named after John Jay, a Founding father of the United States, and first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, who lived nearby. Over the years, the school has been heavily criticized for its mascot, the Indians.

At several times over the past 30 years, the question has been raised whether the school should change its mascot yet, although a 1989 vote by student congress revealed it should, nothing has changed. A recent poll of students revealed a majority of students voting were reluctant to abandon the Indian although there was considerable discussion at the school about the issue. As members of the community, we at Studio 23 had some thoughts.

At the time of the school’s founding, there was much less cultural sensitivity. The “Indian” was chosen, no doubt, as a symbol because it was white affluent society’s interpretation of a kind of fierceness. But recently, the student congress reached out to a native American cultural organization which pointed out that the term “indian” is a racial construct, and is offensive to many in their culture. Clearly, the mascot needs to go.

John Jay Indian Logos

Current John Jay High School iconography.

There are many reasons people are uncomfortable with change, particularly for symbols which hold special meaning to them. Tribal loyalties are questioned, emotions get stirred. But sometimes the issue can be as simple as not being able to see the possibilities beyond what they currently have. To that end, Studio 23 created a series of alternate identities as talking points, not as finished designs. For inspiration we looked at meaningful fauna that were native to the area in the time of John Jay—ravens, wolves, wildcats, hawks—as well as more intangible concepts such as patriot, pioneer, and American.

Below is a result of one of those explorations—the John Jay Revolution, inspired by the fact that John Jay was a prominent figure during the American revolution. The concept uses a tattered “revolutionary flag” as a core part of the identity. The new name implies rebellion and uprising but also implies a sense of speed and motion. The primary typeface used is Franklin Gothic (which would have made Ben Franklin proud) and the color is retained from the existing identity. The modular identity, shown in various possible configurations, includes the name, flag, stylized “JJ”, and is flexible enough to accommodate not only sports teams but clubs and organizations affiliated with the school.

While this is only a concept intended to spark a discussion, we urge the folks at John Jay to move the project forward and hope that our efforts can help in some small way to make that happen. We’d love to come to a game and see the crowd proudly waving their flags. That would be, ahem, revolutionary.

John Jay Indian Alternatives

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