The Origins of the IU Logo and Colors

Andrea has since graduated and moved on, but she left us with some of her amazing blog posts ready to go! Congratulations to Andrea and we think we convinced her that archives is where she wants to be!  

Indiana University Archives P0024505, 2006

Nowadays, the above image is such an iconic and powerful symbol that you can ask pretty much any Midwestern American what it means and they’ll be able to tell you right off the bat: “That’s Indiana University.” It’s on almost every licensed set of apparel or memorabilia you can purchase under the university’s name. And if the letters don’t immediately tip you off, surely the colors will. Over the past century, the IU interlocking insignia in crimson/cream has become a statement that adds up to so much more than the sum of its parts; it means Hoosier pride, excellence in education and athletics, and to many, home. We tend to take things like this simple and enduring design for granted. But where did it come from? After all, someone had to have designed it.

Indiana University Archives P0026900, 1898

The earliest known version of the interlocking insignia can be found in the 1898 Arbutus on the introductory page before the Athletics section. This design was, as labelled, drawn by Claude McDonald Hamilton. We’ve been unable to find any instance of the symbol that predates this one, but from this moment on, you can find many instances of the IU logo in the early 20th century. Many of the early examples of the symbol were used for athletic purposes. Hamilton, notably, was a member of the IU football team for four years, served as editor of the Arbutus, and graduated with a degree in Economics in 1898. There’s no telling whether Hamilton designed this logo himself or borrowed it from some other unknown source.

Indiana University Archives P0026905 1900

As for the colors, we have a somewhat more comprehensive history of their origins. The December 1887 Indiana Student noted that the “colors of the university are crimson and black. Senior class cream and gold.” So, at some point, the two different color combinations must have fused together. By 1903, The Daily Student published an article that stated most of the students and faculty had no idea what IU’s colors were, but several answered confidently that the colors were some variation of crimson, red, white, and cream. The writer of this article explicitly stated that the colors of the university were cream and crimson, explaining that these colors were adopted fifteen years prior (in 1888). Apparently, the colors gained popularity due to their catchy alliteration.

In later years, IU switched to a simpler red and white. It wasn’t until around 2002 that they reverted back to the signature cream and crimson. The University hired Michael-Osborne Design from San Francisco to redesign the interlocking IU symbol with instructions to apply the crimson color to it. Designer Paul Kagiwada gave the logo a newer, cleaner look. The result is that same iconic symbol you’ll see all over campus today.

Indiana Daily Student, November 5, 2002

History of the Freshman Induction Ceremony

With the start of a new academic year, it seemed appropriate to review one of IU’s older, still existing traditions – the Freshman Induction Ceremony.

When did it start: The first Freshman Induction Ceremony was held in 1933 and was organized by George Ezra Shaeffer, a member of the IU Department of Physical Education (later part of HPER). The event continued to be held annually through 1969. For the next eleven years from 1970 to 1980, Freshman Induction ceremonies were not convened. The event reappeared in 1981 and is still a prominent feature of Freshman Orientation events.

Where was it held? The first Freshman Induction ceremony was held in front of what was then called the Men’s Gymnasium (now called Wildermuth Intramural Center). Here is a brief description of that ceremony from the IDS of Sept. 9, 1933: “Orientation will be climaxed Monday night by a formal induction of freshmen into the ranks of the student body beginning at 6:55 pm in front of the Men’s Gymnasium. The procession will go from there to the Sun Dial and to the Gymnasium terrace to take part in the welcoming ceremony in honor of new students at 7:15 pm.” In 1934 the event was moved to the area in front of the Student Building. This remained the site until 1948 when the event was transferred to the Auditorium, where it continues to be held.

The Spirit of Indiana. Behind her stands President Herman B Wells and President Emeritus William Lowe Bryan.

What occurs at this event? What is its meaning? From 1933 until 1969 the Freshman Induction ceremony followed the same basic script. The ceremony began with music, followed by the processional of faculty and the platform group, and the playing of the National Anthem. The first person first to speak was a female IU student dressed in a white robe as the “Spirit of Indiana,” who represented the University’s search for truth and knowledge. The Spirit’s speech is too long to reproduce here, but here are some excerpts:

“The spirit that greets you here is the rich heritage of a glorious past made possible by students, who like yourselves entering the university, feel strangely far from home and intimate friends, but who soon adapted to their new environment. The university covets for each of you a like experience…Make the most of the opportunities while here, acquaint yourself with the best traditions of the university, leave them richer in tradition than when you entered it. Such is the Law of Progress. All that has been and all that is of the spirit of Indiana University welcomes you unreservedly.”

The next speaker was the IU President who read the Charge to the students:

“I am for those who see our University as it is, with all its strengths and yet with all its needs, and who therefore know it is at its best—its resolute integrity, its allegiance to the whole truth, its long service in bringing the young people of this State toward the fullness of the life of the mind, its passion for a clean and just democracy. I am for those who see through the superficialities to the University’s basic purpose: the intellectual development of her sons and daughters. It is in their growth that she exults, for by their excellence they will judge her. Across the earth, these sons and daughters join you in the pledge of the Psalmist of old: ‘If I forget thee, let my right hand forget her cunning. Let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I remember thee not.’”

Upon finishing the Charge the IU President asked the students to repeat the Pledge to the University adopted from an oath delivered by Athenian youth pledging to dutifully meet their civic, military and religious duties.

“I will not disgrace the University for which I have received my education, nor will I abandon the comrade who stands by my side.”
“I will fight for its best interests, whether I stand alone or have the support of others.”
“I will revere and preserve its ideals and traditions, and will incite like reverence in others”
“I will strive always to quicken among my fellows the sense of social and civic duty.”
“I will cherish the sacred institutions of my country.”
“In all these ways I will strive to transmit this, our heritage, not less, but greater and better than it was transmitted unto us.”

With the conclusion of the Pledge, the IU President offered some personal remarks and then declared the freshmen to be official members of the IU student body. At the end of the President’s statement, the Dean of Music led the audience in the singing of “Hail to Old I.U,” after which the Grand Marshal led the recessional off the stage.

When the Freshman Induction Ceremony was resurrected in 1981 three major changes occurred in the script. A painting entitled the “Spirit of Indiana” replaced the IU student dressed in a white robe, and the President of the IU Student Association (in 1981 this was Bloomington’s present mayor Mark Kruzan) now delivered the “Spirit of Indiana” speech. In addition, the Pledge to the University was eliminated from the ceremony. However, the induction of freshman as official members of the student body remained as a central feature of the ceremony.

In recent times much about the ceremony has changed. The “Spirit of Indiana” symbolism and speech are gone, as are the traditional Charge. The Pledge has been reinstated, but it has been shortened and modernized and renamed the “Indiana Promise.” In this statement students promise that:

“I will be ethical in my academic work.
I will take personal responsibility for what I say and what I do.
I will respect the dignity of others, treating them with civility and understanding.”

Even though the Freshman Induction Ceremony has changed over the years, it still serves the same purposes: to provide a celebration of student’s academic aspirations and to officially welcome the freshman into the IU student community.